Phoenix Fire Department gives safety tips as lithium-ion battery fires on the rise

Dec 19, 2023, 9:52 AM | Updated: 4:35 pm

PHOENIX — With lithium-ion battery fires on the rise in Phoenix, firefighters are warning about its risks and offering safety tips.

Lithium-ion batteries are used to power cellphones as well as electric bikes, scooters, mopeds and vehicles.

In the past six months, there have been over a dozen fires involving lithium-ion batteries in Phoenix, and over 30 across the Valley, Phoenix Fire Capt. Rob McDade told KTAR News 92.3 FM recently.

“If you look at that [number] five years ago, these were a handful, if any, so we know there’s an increase and this is why we need to bring it to everybody’s attention,” McDade said.

“We want you to have fun. They can be safe, and they can be very convenient, but just make sure you follow the manufacturers recommendation and we don’t want you to be a statistic.”

McDade said fire personnel are only now realizing the potential dangers lithium-ion batteries can bring.

“We just want to make sure that everybody understands the precautions you should take when owning these, storing them and charging them in your home,” he said.

What’s causing lithium-ion-related emergencies?

Fire officials believe weather and improper care of devices are in part why there’s been a rise in lithium-ion related emergencies.

“What we’re learning is here in Phoenix, a lot of folks store these scooters or skateboards in their garage. Well, a garage in Phoenix in the summer is 140 degrees on a very hot day, with no ventilation,” McDade said.

Because fire personnel are seeing similar cases across the Valley, officials are working to educate others about the risks being taken when charging devices containing lithium-ion batteries.

Here are safety tips when dealing with lithium-ion batteries

Devices containing the batteries should be stored in an open space, away from couches, beds or pillows.

“The number one recommendation is we don’t want you to set it and forget it, and I know that might be inconvenient for folks,” he said.

“But basically what we’re saying is, don’t charge your bike inside your home and then leave and go to work because you’re not going to be there to hear the hissing, to smell the smoke, and that’s going to be a runaway fire.”

Cellphones also shouldn’t be left charging for more than 10 days.

“Do yourself a favor, unplug it. The majority are safe, but unfortunately, there’s enough that it’s caused death and destruction through homes and apartment complexes to where you really have to be safe when you’re using it,” McDade said.

Anyone seeking a device that contains a lithium-ion battery should be using ones with a reputable testing agency mark, such as the Underwriters Laboratory stamp “UL,” which indicates the product has been safely tested, the Phoenix Fire Department said.

People also should use the cord and power adapter designed specifically for the device.

“We’ve had fires that started when they’re using different charger. Just because it fits in there, doesn’t mean it should be charging it. It might be charging at a higher rate with more amperage than we would like you to have it,” McDade said.

Batteries and devices also should be kept at room temperature and away from any sources of heat and direct sunlight.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nick Sadowski contributed to this story.

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Phoenix Fire Department gives safety tips as lithium-ion battery fires on the rise