A sharp increase in lithium-ion battery fires in some big cities has prompted a warning from Red Deer Emergency Services.
Lithium-ion batteries are in everything from smartphones, laptops and toys to e-scooters, e-cigarettes and electric vehicles.
Red Deer has seen only three lithium-ion-sparked fires so far but experiences in bigger cities suggest there could be more coming.
Vancouver Fire Services has reported a five-fold increase in lithium-ion battery fires since 2016 and half of fire fatalities there were linked to the batteries, said Red Deer Emergency Services (RDES) in a news release on Friday.
Calgary has also seen a huge increase in these kinds of fires, says RDES.
Blackfalds Fire Department recently acquired two “emergency plugs” to deal with lithium-ion battery-powered electric vehicles. The plug is inserted into an electric vehicle’s charging port. It tricks the computer system into thinking the vehicle is charging and the engine shuts off.
Among the challenges of responding to electric vehicle collisions is that it is difficult to determine if the near-soundless engines are still running. Blackfalds has already responded to two collisions involving electric vehicles, said the fire chief earlier this week.
RDES says it has not yet responded to an electric vehicle fire and has not acquired specialized equipment so far. However, firefighters have kept up to date on the latest tactics for battling those kinds of blazes, which often involves using many times more water than a traditional vehicle fire.
RDES offers a few tips to reduce the risk of a lithium-ion battery fire:
• Never overcharge the battery,
• Always use manufacturer-approved batteries and charging cords designed for the device,
• If the device is damaged, take it to a qualified inspector for service,
• Do not charge your device on a bed, couch or under a pillow. Place the device on a hard surface that allows for airflow around the device,
• Keep batteries at room temperate away from direct sunlight, heating equipment, or anything that can catch fire. Do not leave devices in hot vehicles,
• Stop using the battery if you notice odour, change in colour or shape, heat, or odd noises.
Red Deerians can properly dispose of lithium-ion batteries by taking them to the Waste Management Facility, free of charge. Residents should not put lithium-ion batteries in the trash.