Fires from lithium-ion batteries kill five Vancouverites in six months

Jun 13 2022, 11:24 pm

Vancouver Fire Rescue Services says fires caused by lithium-ion batteries are an increasingly deadly problem in the city.

So far this year, five people have died in fires associated with the batteries — making battery fires the number one cause of fire deaths in Vancouver. In total, seven people have died in fires in 2022.

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable cells with relatively high power for their size. They’re often used in portable electronics such as laptops and cellphones and are also present in e-bikes — which have been growing in popularity.

Most recently, one person died in a lithium-ion battery-caused fire in an SRO this weekend, captain of public information with VFRS Matthew Trudeau told Daily Hive.

He spoke at a news conference Monday, saying fires caused by these types of batteries have increased fivefold since 2016.

“It’s very concerning and it’s Canada and US-wise,” he told Daily Hive in a phone interview. “We’re just seeing an inherent problem operating lithium-ion batteries safely.”

Most problems occur when people charge the battery with a cable that’s not approved for use in Canada or is damaged. Although buying a charging cable or a replacement battery online may be cheaper and more appealing, Trudeau urged customers to opt for an option that’s manufacturer-approved — even if it means spending more.

In addition, he recommended people charge devices outside their bedrooms, or outside their homes entirely, if possible.

“If you overcharge them or you charge them incorrectly you can heat them up and it causes an internal runaway effect that … causes a subsequent fire and explosion.”

He mentioned the lithium-ion battery fires have been increasing in frequency ever since people have turned to electric modes of transport with fuel prices increasing. While e-bikes and e-scooters have many benefits, Trudeau urged owners to become familiar with safe charging practices.

“Even outside of these five [fatal] fires we have seen numerous fires for these types of batteries resulting in damage and injury.”

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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