Firefighters have been working to improve responses to lithium battery fires.

Lithium battery fires to break records

An increased number of lithium battery fires shows better awareness is needed.
June 20, 2024

EMERGENCY services have responded to an increasing number of lithium-ion battery fires this year with the statistics on track to break last year’s total of recorded incidents.

Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said local authorities are concerned that alongside the significant increase in lithium-ion devices that Western Australians could be putting themselves at risk in charging the highly flammable products.

During winter people are more inclined to bring rechargeable devices inside their homes and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) is urging Western Australians to take precautions to protect themselves from battery fires following deaths in New South Wales and Queensland.

DFES has responded to 70 fires ignited by lithium-ion batteries so far this year - on target to pass the previous record of 110 set in 2023.

Authorities are particularly concerned about the spate of residential fires sparked by e-bikes or e-scooters that can spread very quickly and are difficult to extinguish.

Batteries of cheaper products have flooded the market in recent years and are now becoming damaged or reaching their end-of-life.

These batteries are being replaced by incompatible alternatives, posing a serious fire risk.
eRideables have already caused 20 fires this year, including two devastating incidents last week that destroyed homes in Karratha and Carlisle.

Batteries that enter thermal runaway and explode can start a fire metres away from where they are being charged, potentially engulfing an entire home in a matter of minutes.

To reduce the risk of lithium-ion battery fires, DFES recommends to purchase reputable products and source replacement batteries from the original supplier, regularly check for signs of physical damage and overheating, charge devices away from flammable items such as beds or couches, set a timer that will remind you to remove a fully charged device before you go to sleep, and install a hard-wired interconnected smoke or heat alarm in areas of the home where you are charging devices.

Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said lithium-ion batteries are relatively safe when you buy them from reputable suppliers and treat them with care.

“But compromised products that overheat and explode have caused fatal house fires overseas and interstate - we don’t want Western Australians at risk.

“The Cook Government is investing an additional $140 million to ensure our emergency services are well equipped and prepared for all types of incidents, but people also need to take responsibility for their actions when it comes to fire safety.

“There will always be the temptation to try to save a bit of money on a cheaper product, but I urge people to be careful. Most home fires involving lithium-ion batteries go unnoticed before it is too late.”

Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said lithium-ion batteries have fast become one of the greatest fire risks in our homes as products like eRideables and cordless power tools become more common.

“These fires are preventable if you follow safety advice including charging on a hard surface and not leaving devices on charge indefinitely.”

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