Lithium-ion battery warning issued ahead of Christmas shopping season

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) is warning shoppers about the dangers relating to Lithium-ion battery-powered gifts this Christmas.

FRNSW has observed a significant rise in fires related to Lithium-ion batteries this year, most often in small, portable devices like e-bikes and e-scooters.

Since January 1, FRNSW crews have responded to 180 Lithium-ion battery fires, compared with just over 16 in 2021.

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience Steph Cooke said the number of recent Lithium-ion battery-related fires should serve as an alarm for Christmas shoppers.

“Most of these fires occur when lithium-ion batteries are in the process of charging and overheat, causing an explosion of flames in living rooms or garages,” Ms Cooke said.

“Just a few weeks ago an e-bike battery caught fire and almost burnt down a family home in Manly. A brick wall was the only barrier that prevented flames spreading from the garage to the remainder of the house.

“Please treat Lithium-ion battery-powered products with care, don’t leave them on charge for extended periods of time, and remember to call Triple Zero (000) in an emergency situation.”

FRNSW Acting Deputy Commissioner – Strategic Capability Trent Curtin said both re-chargeable and disposable batteries should be treated with caution, as they can expel molten flammable metal and emit toxic gases when on fire.

“When Lithium-ion batteries fail, they are prone to ‘thermal runaway’, which sees them build up intense heat until they violently burst, causing toxic, flammable and explosive gases and flames that are extremely difficult to extinguish.

“Firefighters often have to use copious amounts of water to ensure that they are extinguished and adequately cooled to prevent re-ignition,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Curtin said.

“While the quality of the Lithium-ion battery can pose a risk, the main risk is caused by over-charging or trying to charge a damaged battery, which could cause it to overheat and ignite.

“If you are shopping for toys, e-bikes, e-scooters, laptops or power tools that are powered by Lithium-ion batteries this Christmas, always ensure you’re purchasing a reputable brand from a reputable retailer.”

FRNSW is warning people 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
  • 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
  • Properly dispose of used Lithium-ion batteries.

FRNSW is currently conducting research to inform how firefighters respond to Lithium-ion battery incidents, and to influence policy and standards that help prevent injuries and damage caused.

More information is available at:

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