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MacBook Pro catches on fire, demonstrating potential danger of batteries

A Reddit user has shared pictures of his 2015 MacBook Pro that burst into flames, practically demonstrating what stored energy and flammable electrolyte can do if a battery is damaged.

In a post that surfaced on Reddit's r/apple community on Wednesday, a user has describes how his MacBook Pro ignited while using it. He provided a video and some information about what had taken place.

"Yesterday afternoon my MacBook Pro exploded during normal use. It was on my lap, plugged in, and suddenly started to spew smoke out both sides. I quickly placed it on the floor where it popped, the smoke increased, and it caught fire," the user wrote. "Toxic smelling smoke filled my house triggering smoke and CO alarms. No one was injured, thankfully, but there was some damage to my home."

The video showcases a MacBook Pro placed on what appears to be the poster's porch. The MacBook can be seen emitting smoke and what seems to be a scorch mark is apparent on the wood adjacent to the unit.

Reddit user "Whitepandamusic" says that he took his computer to the local Apple store. They informed him that they could not do anything until the MacBook Pro spent 24 hours in a fire-proof safe, likely as a safety precaution. He also notes that they have escalated the situation, and that he will hear a response back within five business days.

An Apple "escalation" typically involves what is often referred to as a "capture" and shipping the unit in its entirety to Cupertino or other major depot facility. Upon arrival, engineers disassemble the machine to determine what went wrong.

The user of the 2015 MacBook Pro in this case didn't report any battery swelling, or anything else indicating a problem. In the MacBook Pro, a common symptom of a swollen battery is a trackpad that doesn't click anymore, or separation of the lower case from the enclosure. If you see either of these symptoms in any Apple portable Mac, an Apple Watch screen pushed out of place by the battery, or a separation of an iPad or iPhone case, we suggest you bring it to an Apple Store or other authorized service center for immediate examination.

Apple's response varies, based on what the examination determines. If the disassembly shows that the incident was not caused by a third-party product like a replacement battery that failed, or not otherwise induced by the user, the unit is generally replaced by the company.

Battery fires are caused by overcharge, overheating, damage, or even old age. The inner cells can "outgas" a flammable electrolyte mixture contained within. In an ideal situation, a battery membrane will stretch to contain the material, but eventually the membrane will rupture, leading to explosions and often fire.

As of now, it is not clear what caused the MacBook Pro's battery to rupture in such a fashion. It is possible that it could have been a charging malfunction or unseen damage.

There is no indication that this is a symptom of a widespread issue or a warning of a larger problem. There has not been an increase in battery-related failures in AppleInsider's collated service data, with the failure rates remaining flat over the last eight years.