Warning on lithium-ion batteries after fire in Carlton student accommodation

Thursday, 18 April 2024 at 6:46 am

Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) is warning of the risks of lithium-ion batteries after fire broke out at a Carlton student accommodation building on 18 April and around 50 people were evacuated.

Callers to Triple Zero (000) reported the fire at the building at Bouverie Street at 7.06am.

FRV crews arrived on scene within five minutes, finding a significant amount of smoke issuing from an upper level of the six-storey building.

Fire crews immediately evacuated residents from the building and the response was escalated, including aerial appliances to attack the fire from above.

Firefighters in breathing apparatus made entry to the building and attacked the fire which had started in an apartment on the second floor, until it was contained.

Firefighters than searched the apartment, which was extensively damaged, to ensure all occupants had evacuated.

The fire was declared under control at 7.28am.

All building occupants were safely accounted for. The two occupants of the affected apartment were treated for smoke inhalation.

Ambulance Victoria paramedics were on site and Victoria Police directed traffic.

FRV Commander Paul Eckholdt said the fire was caused by a lithium-ion battery phone power bank which exploded while charging in a bedroom.

“There was quite an intense fire for a number of seconds and that caught the bed alight,“ said Commander Eckholdt.

“The residents awoke with the explosion and they evacuated the apartment.”

FRV has issued the following safety advice on lithium-ion batteries:

  • Purchase products from a reputable supplier and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Only charge items in rooms with smoke alarms. Charge away from doors so you can safely exit a property if your product catches alight.
  • Only use chargers and cords that are originally supplied with that device. Using chargers with incorrect power delivery (voltage and current) can cause damage to the battery or overheating that can lead to fires.
  • Only use batteries that are designed for that device.
  • Check that chargers have the Regulatory Compliance Mark, to show that they meet the relevant Australian Standards.
  • Avoid charging batteries overnight or leaving devices unattended while charging. Once the indicator shows that a device or battery has been fully charged, disconnect it from the charger.
  • Avoid charging on soft locations such as couches, beds and carpets.
  • Where possible, Light Electric Vehicles (LEVs) should be stored and charged away from living spaces. Keep them away from any exit doors, escape routes, and other combustible materials. We recommend installation of a smoke alarm where LEVs are charged.
  • Only have device repair, battery replacement or upgrades performed by a qualified professional.
  • Never store or leave batteries or devices in areas where they can be exposed to heat or moisture. Do not leave devices in direct sunlight or in parked vehicles where they can quickly heat up. Let batteries cool before recharging.
  • Don’t use batteries or devices that show signs of swelling or bulging, leaking, overheating, or signs of mechanical damage (cracked, dented, punctured, or crushed). Don’t touch leaking or damaged batteries (use gloves) and clean up any spilled material carefully. If safe to do so remove the battery away from anything that can catch fire, preferably outside, and follow disposal instructions.