Surge in battery fires prompts warning

battery fires

A surge in lithium-ion battery fires across New South Wales has prompted a warning to consumers to beware of sub-standard lithium-ion battery-powered devices.

The latest Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) statistics show an increase of nine per cent in lithium-ion battery fires to date, compared with the entire year of 2022. There have been 180 battery related fires so far in 2023, already outnumbering the 165 lithium-ion battery-related fires to which FRNSW responded to in 2022.

The New South Wales Government is raising awareness of how to prevent these potentially deadly fires and save lives. Households are urged to use, store and dispose of batteries safely to combat the surge in house, garbage truck and waste facility fires.

Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said firefighters are responding to an average of more than three battery fires a week from in-home charging issues or incorrect disposal. Batteries are featuring more prominently in fire statistics, with lithium power packs and charger fires an increasing concern for fire crews.

“These batteries are used to power everything from mobile phones and laptops to vacuum cleaners and e-scooters. We would encourage people to choose carefully and consider how they use them in the home,” Dib said.

“These fires can cause significant damage to a home and we encourage homeowners to take care when charging devices, follow charging instructions and dispose of used battery products safely.”

Since March 2023, New South Wales Fair Trading has conducted inspections of 166 retailers selling electrical articles, including 39 models of e-bikes and e-scooters powered by lithium-ion batteries. Minister for Fair Trading Anoulack Chanthivong said inspectors found 30 models with non-compliant chargers and the retailers were instructed to remove them from sale.

NSW Fair Trading is continuing to inspect products and businesses to inform the public of any concerns and to educate consumers about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries.

FRNSW Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said if a battery is compromised through damage or overheating, it can go into what we call ‘Thermal Runaway. It will pop and crackle, then give off toxic gas before exploding in intense flames that are extremely difficult to extinguish.

Fewtrell  urged anyone buying presents that require lithium-Ion batteries this Christmas, to make sure those batteries are manufactured by a trusted company.

“You’d want peace of mind…if the price is too good to be true or there’s no recognised brand on the batteries, steer clear and ensure you’re shopping for a quality product.”

To help ensure batteries are used safely, FRNSW also advises to:

  • not over-charge Lithium-ion batteries or leave them charging overnight unattended
  • not charge Lithium-ion batteries on beds, sofas or around highly flammable and insulating materials
  • always use compliant and approved charging equipment for Lithium-ion batteries, don’t mix and match components and voltage
  • avoid dropping, crushing or piercing the Lithium-ion battery cells
  • store Lithium-ion batteries in a cool, dry area away from combustible materials, and larger devices like e-bikes and gardening tools should be stored outside of bedrooms and living spaces
  • not charge or use Lithium-ion batteries that show signs of damage

Find out more about battery and charging safety.

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