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Parma Fire Department sees increase in lithium battery fires

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Posted at 6:57 PM, Mar 16, 2023

PARMA, Ohio — Lithium batteries can be found in electric cars, bikes, scooters, household products like lawnmowers, and even cell phones. U.S. safety regulators are seeing a surge in fires associated with e-bicycles, scooters, and hoverboards. Earlier this week, two New York City firefighters were injured after a fire started at an e-bike shop.

Parma Fire Marshall, Captain Ricky Fetter, said if left charging for too long unattended, batteries can overheat and combust.

“Changing them at night could be a deadly occurrence,” Fetter said.

Fetter said so far into 2023, there have been over 100 lithium-battery-related fires in Northeast Ohio.

“Those types of fires are increasing each year,” Fetter added.

The biggest issue Parma is seeing comes from electric bikes. People are taking them inside to charge to avoid getting stolen.

“A lot of people are taking a normal bicycle and are getting the conversation kit to make it an e-bike,” said Fetter. “The problem with that is most of them aren’t certified and when they are not certified, anything can happen.”

Besides how common these types of fires are becoming, the other challenge is how difficult they can be to put out.

“You have a battery and there could be 100 cells,” Fetter said. “In that battery, if one cell lights off, every other cell is going to light off. It’s almost impossible to put these fires out once they start.”

Fetter said resources are becoming exhausted.

“It’s costing a lot more manpower, time and effort to put these out,” Fetter said. “And eventually we have to dispose of that battery, and you have the clean-up costs associated with that as well.”

The fire department is asking people not to bring in e-bikes or e-scooters inside to charge, and if charging in a garage, never charge at night or leave them unattended. Also, make sure you’re purchasing products from certified makers.

“We are starting to see more and more of them and people need to realize there are ways to prevent it,” said Fetter.

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