Exploding batteries see Brigade renew its scooter warning

The London Fire Brigade has this morning released shocking video footage of an explosion from a charging e-scooter. The resulting fire put the scooter owner in hospital. “I cheated death,” they said.

Boom time: the moment that the e-scooter’s battery catches light just before the explosion in the kitchen

(Be patient: the explosive stuff starts with a puff of smoke shortly after 30 seconds into the video).

The video release is part of the LFB’s #ChargeSafe campaign to try to reduce instances of fires starting in the home from dodgy batteries – the Brigade has responded to 60 such fires in the capital already this year.

The incident in the video occurred at the weekend in north London, and is one of an increasing number of call-outs the Brigade is getting for fires starting from e-scooter and e-bike batteries.

Dell Williams, one of the tenants in a two-storey terraced house, was charging his e-scooter in the kitchen. Luckily for him, and the other residents, they were not nearby when the incident occurred.

The CCTV footage shows how quickly the e-scooter caught alight. Williams attempted to tackle the fire with a fire blanket but was overcome by fumes and exited the property.

He bought the e-scooter a fortnight earlier from the online marketplace Gumtree. He says he was charging the e-scooter in the communal kitchen instead of his room to avoid his dog touching it while it charged.

“I just want to thank the Lord that we managed to get out of there in one piece!” Williams said.

“I am so grateful to be alive. I spent eight hours in hospital due to inhaling smoke from the fire and when I went back to the house it was such an eye opener. I was shocked, I am shocked now. I am so grateful that no one else was hurt. I cheated death.”

Dom Ellis, London Fire Brigade’s deputy commissioner, said, “As the video shows, once a battery starts to go into thermal runaway, a fire develops very quickly and can block escape routes.

“Thermal runaway can lead to the destruction of the battery and a ferocious fire.

“We know prior to ignition thermal runaway can lead to the ejection of a range of gases. The white and grey coloured smoke is not harmless, and the speed at which these incidents develop shouldn’t be ignored.”

The LFB’s advice is never tackle a fire: get out, stay out and dial 999.

And scooter-owner Williams has learned a hard lesson. “Don’t have e-scooters in the house. Charge outside. Don’t keep it in the house. Buy e-scooters from a shop where you have a warranty and insurance.

“I wouldn’t say don’t buy one, but if you buy one, store them outside so they don’t catch fire. Don’t leave them on charge unattended. Keep people and property safe!”

There have been 48 e-bike fires and 12 e-scooter fires in the capital in the first four months of 2023.

This latest fire comes as the Brigade continues its #ChargeSafe campaign, which aims to highlight the risks associated with lithium batteries which are commonly used with e-bikes and e-scooters.

Brigade safety tips for all e-bike users to follow:

  • Never block your escape route with anything, including e-bikes and e-scooters
  • Store them somewhere away from a main through route. LFB advice is to store these items in a safe location if possible, such as a garage or a shed
  • Do not attempt to modify or tamper with your battery. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Converting pedal bikes into e-bikes using DIY kits bought online can be very dangerous. They pose a higher risk of fire
  • Check your battery and charger meets UK safety standards
  • Watch out for signs that the battery or charger aren’t working as they should – if it’s hot to the touch or has changed shape
  • Always use the correct charger and buy from a reputable seller
  • There is particular concern where batteries have been purchased from online marketplaces and when they’ve been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards
  • Let the battery cool before charging
  • Unplug your charger once it’s finished charging
  • Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when charging and not to leave it unattended or charging while people are asleep
  • Fit alarms where you charge. Ensure you have smoke alarms fitted in areas where e-bikes or e-scooters are being charged and make sure they are tested regularly. You can quickly and easily check your home by visiting the LFB’s online home fire safety checker tool

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