DFES issues warning after spike in lithium battery fires

Fire damage from a lithium-ion battery. PIC: DFES

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has issued a warning to the public after a spike in structure fires caused by lithium-ion batteries.

Last year, firefighters responded to 64 structure fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, up from 34 in 2020.

Firefighters have already been called to 32 of these incidents in 2023, with the State now in its busiest period of the year for residential fires. 

Lithium-ion batteries, found in a wide range of everyday products such as mobile phones, laptops, e-rideables and vacuum cleaners, can overheat and cause extremely destructive fires.

A small fire caused by a lithium-ion battery can engulf an entire room in two to three minutes.

Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM said the growing prevalence of products powered by lithium-ion batteries was driving the increase. 

“Since 2020, structure fires caused by lithium-ion batteries have increased in Western Australia by more than 85 per cent,” Commissioner Klemm said.

“It’s a concern for us and the public needs to be aware of the risks.

“Fires linked to lithium-ion batteries tend to escalate quickly and are very difficult to extinguish, which means there is a high risk of property damage or injuries.

“Our advice is to make sure batteries are charged in a safe place and on a hard surface, away from flammable items.”

While lithium-ion batteries are a growing concern, Commissioner Klemm said it was important that the public was aware of other traditional home fire hazards such as kitchen fires, unattended heaters and candles.

“Firefighters in Western Australia have attended more than 1250 kitchen fires since 2018, including 100 incidents this year,” Commissioner Klemm said.

“It is a timely reminder to ensure your home has a working hard-wired smoke alarm and a fire escape plan.”

Information on lithium-ion battery fires and prevention tips can be found here.

DFES is also encouraging all Western Australians to develop a home fire safety plan by visiting https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/hazard-information/fire-in-the-home/preventing.

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