South Metro Fire

Apartment Fire Caused by E-bike Battery

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Last week an e-bike battery caught fire and severely damaged a unit at Eagle Pointe apartments. No one was injured and South Metro Fire arrived quickly to contain the blaze. The fire didn’t spread past the single apartment, though the living room was destroyed and smoke damaged the rest of the unit.

Lithium-ion batteries can be a safety hazard and lead to fires and explosions. Especially when damaged, the batteries can have a runaway thermal reaction that starts an immediate fire or even explodes.

“It’s just going to be the tip of the iceberg as we transition away from classic fossil fuels into more electronic transportation modes,” said Terry Johnson, assistant fire chief and fire marshal for South Metro Fire.

The batteries are used in everything from e-bikes to power tools. As these batteries are more commonly used, fires are likewise increasing.

“We’ve had two within a year,” said Johnson. “So there’s probably tens of thousands of batteries, if not more, within West St. Paul and South St. Paul and hundreds of thousands of lithium ion batteries with everyone having tools and now lawn mowers and weed whips and all that stuff. So it’s not like it’s a large percentage of these batteries, but precautions should be taken.”

Fire Prevention Tips

The Fall 2022 city newsletter that just came out included an article from South Metro Fire about the dangers of battery fires. They recommend several tips to reduce the chances of a fire:

  • Store batteries between 40 and 80 degrees and don’t store the in direct sunlight.
  • Do not leave batteries on the charger once they’re finished charging.
  • Only charge batteries when you are home.
  • Use a fire-safe bag to store and, if possible, charge the battery.
  • Remove batteries before storing an item.
  • Inspect batteries before use and do not use them if you notice any damage.
  • If you notice excessive heat coming from a charging device, unplug it immediately and consider replacing the battery.

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