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Fire departments caution against dangers of lithium-ion batteries

Posted at 6:03 PM, Oct 11, 2022

Lithium-ion batteries power almost all of our devices but if not maintained properly they can combust, causing significant damage.

Lithium-ion batteries store an immense amount of energy in a small amount of space. They can deliver voltage up to three times higher than other battery types. The trouble starts when they get overcharged, damaged, or start to build up a lot of heat to the point where they go through thermal runaway and heat up to the point of ignition.

"Some of the issues we see is when they take these batteries and put them in a charging state, they may try to put them in a combustible surface like a bed or someplace where the batteries cannot disperse heat and then they’ll build up that heat until the point where it catches fire and obviously once it catches fire it starts to spread to the rest of the house," explained Fire Captain John Prickett, Paso Robles Fire Department.

Lithium-ion batteries are in phones, computers, drones, e-bikes, and even electric cars.

Recently, there have been several instances of lithium-ion battery fires in Paso Robles — one at a commercial battery storage facility and multiple house fires linked to smaller devices charged in combustible areas of the home.

Ways to avoid combustion range from using proper charging cables, avoiding knockoffs, being conscious of where you charge, unplugging after charging, storing batteries in cool, dry places and keeping an eye out for signs of damage.

Some warning signs that your battery is damaged or could catch fire are abnormal heat radiating from the device, swelling or bulging, noises coming from the battery, an odor, or even smoke.

For more information about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries, the Paso Robles Fire Department will be having an open house this Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Public Safety Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.