'We hear this awful noise': Witnesses react to explosive purse at council meeting

A woman’s purse erupts in flames and interrupts the City Council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Boulder City. (Photo courtesy of City of Boulder City)

What starts as a typical City Council meeting Tuesday in Boulder City turned into anything but after a woman sitting in the back of the room suddenly was on fire after her purse burst into flames.

Roger Hall, the director of Boulder City Parks and Recreation, was one of the first people who rushed to help.

“We hear this awful noise,” he said. “It sounded like a bookshelf or picture falling off the wall.

“She was kind of in shock because it happened so fast. She was on fire; her purse was on fire. Kind of a crazy scene.”

Boulder City Fire Chief Kevin Nicholson says the woman was burned on her leg, treated at the scene and sent home.

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“I believe it was a battery malfunction that ignited the contents of her purse,” Nicholson said.

And while he knows it was not a cellphone that caught fire, Nicholson can't say for sure what kind of battery was involved. And he offered this advice.

“Make sure if you have a device, you read the manual. Know the care and maintenance,” he said.

This isn't the first time an accident like this has happened.

In April, Scott Hildreth — a passenger traveling through McCarran International Airport — suffered third-degree burns when a battery for his e-cigarette caught fire in his pants pocket. The circumstances were nearly identical to what happened here.

“Tried to rid myself of anything, I mean, my clothes were on fire,” he said.

Scorch marks in the carpet show where the battery from Tuesday was dropped in the hallway as the woman made her way outside of City Hall — a frightening night at City Council few witnesses will soon forget.

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