The problem doesn't seem to be all that bad, really. Apparently a defect in the manufacturing process allowed a scrap of metal to find its way into a Sanyo laptop battery. The defective battery short-circuited and caught on fire. There's no indication that more than one battery was affected, but Dell has recalled 27,000 of the batteries. Now that Sanyo is aware of the potential problem, they have taken steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.
I suppose this could be a design feature in the future; stuck on a deserted island thanks to a plane crash, boat sinking, or stupid TV show? Just whip out the trusty Laptop O' Fire, and you'll never need matches.