Firefighters issue safety warning about key Christmas gifts

Published:
Monday, 11 December 2023 at 10:26 pm

As Victorians fill their stockings this festive season, firefighters are urging caution about popular Christmas gifts.

Fire Rescue Victoria Acting Deputy Commissioner Gavin Rooney said he was expecting that many items under the tree this year would contain rechargeable lithium-ion batteries – which could pose a fire risk.

“Lithium-ion batteries can be found in everything from e-bikes and e-scooters to toys, power tools and phones,” Deputy Commissioner Rooney said.

“While these products make our lives easier and have many positive environmental and social impacts, they occasionally can and do catch alight, especially if overcharged or not treated properly.”

“In the past three months, Victorian firefighters have been responding to lithium-ion battery fires almost every day, and this trend is only expected to increase as more rechargeable batteries make their way into our homes.”

“Within the past month, in fact, FRV firefighters attended three major house fires across Melbourne linked to e-bikes and e-bike chargers.”

“In each case, the properties were significantly damaged or destroyed by the fires, and it is lucky that nobody was injured.”

“It is crucial that people only buy products from reputable suppliers, use the charger supplied with the device and charge items outdoors or in rooms with smoke alarms.”

Country Fire Authority Assistant Chief Fire Officer (ACFO) Paul Carrigg said it was important people never modified or tampered with their battery, as this could cause it to overheat.

“Lithium-ion batteries are energy-dense and contain chemicals,” ACFO Carrigg said. “When these batteries overheat they can release toxic and highly flammable gases.”

“Stop using or charging the product if you notice strong odours, extreme heat, change in shape, leaking or unusual sounds. Leave the area and call Triple Zero (000) immediately.”

Rechargeable lithium-ion battery safety tips:

  • Purchase products from reputable suppliers. 
  • Only use chargers and cords that are supplied with the device. 
  • Don’t modify or tamper with the batteries and the appliances they power. 
  • Don’t leave batteries charging in direct sunlight or for longer than they need to.
  • Only charge batteries on non-combustible surfaces in a room where a smoke alarm is present. 
  • Don’t use batteries or devices that show signs of swelling, bulging, leaking or overheating.
  • Don’t charge items close to a door, which would block your exit if the item did catch fire.

Learn more: 
https://www.frv.vic.gov.au/battery-safety
www.cfa.vic.gov.au/batterysafety

Updated