Close escape highlights dangers of rechargeable batteries

Thursday, 14 September 2023 at 2:03 am

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries have been determined as the cause of a significant house fire in Lalor on Tuesday, destroying a bedroom and causing extensive damage to the roof and other areas of the house.

The fire was sparked by an overheated rechargeable lithium-ion battery that was used to power model toys bought online from overseas suppliers.

The blaze has prompted Victoria’s fire service and energy regulator to issue a fresh warning about rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, urging Victorians to take care of the products.

Firefighters arrived at the Judith Court home at 11am, finding a bedroom and the roof of the property fully alight. 

Thankfully, the two occupants had escaped the house before crews arrived, after unsuccessfully attempting to extinguish the fire themselves.

It took around 20 firefighters just under 40 minutes to bring the fire under control.

Fire Rescue Commissioner Gavin Freeman AFSM said the incident was a timely reminder about why Victorians needed to take precautions when using and charging rechargeable batteries.

“Victoria’s fire services are responding to at least one substantial lithium-ion battery fire each week, and this trend is only expected to increase.

“Lithium-ion batteries are found in all kinds of rechargeable products, from e-bikes to laptops and, in this case, model toys.

“As more of these products make their way into our homes, it is important that people understand how to minimise the fire risks they pose.”

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said when lithium-ion batteries are damaged, misused or fail to meet compliance standards, they pose a serious fire risk, particularly while they are connected to chargers.

Stop using or charging the product if you notice strong odours, extreme heat, change in shape, leaking or hissing and popping sounds, as these are indicators the product may catch alight," he said.

Energy Safe CEO Leanne Hughson said people should avoid ‘aftermarket’, recycled or modified batteries or those not made by the original manufacturer.

“Only purchase rechargeable batteries that meet Australian Standards,” she said. “Many available from online vendors do not. Don’t take shortcuts to save some money.”

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