Battery Fires and How to Put Them Out

Battery fires have made headlines recently, often becoming internet sensations despite only occurring 1 out of every 10 million lithium batteries.

Reality check: the incidence of lithium battery fires has decreased as manufacturers improve their design and build processes, but potential fire risks still exist, making it important for us to remain aware of them.


Overheating lithium-ion batteries is a serious threat for mobile phones, laptops, electric vehicles and hoverboards alike. Fires have been caused by overcharging, short circuiting and overcharging as well as manufacturing defects within the battery itself – some being as serious as short circuiting or overcharging altogether.

Fires typically start as the result of thermal runaway, in which chemical reactions between electrodes and electrolyte become uncontrollable and become irreparable. Fires often break out when batteries overheat, especially if their separator has been compromised in some way.

Researchers from a Department of Energy Frontier Research Center have created a new polymer that may prevent battery fires by serving as an insulator and blocking electrons from flowing through.

Shape memory polymers (SMPs), developed to address this challenge, have shown they can transform from electron transmitter to insulator at temperatures near 197 F; typically this threshold marks when traditional cells overheat and become vulnerable to thermal runaway.

To avoid overheating, batteries should be carefully examined when purchased and recharged in a secure place only. Furthermore, make sure your used battery is disposed of through an electronic recycling drop-off site or household hazardous waste collection event.

Last year, an overcharged scuba diving torch caused damage totalling $70,000 while also dislocating five members of a Beeliar household.

Lithium-ion battery fires pose a grave danger, and their prevalence has steadily increased with more rechargeable devices entering the market. To stay safe, batteries should be regularly checked for signs of overheating like changing color or shape or an extremely hot start up time.

Batteries should never be connected to any flammable materials or plugged into an electrical outlet, even when turned off, due to flammable gas leakage from batteries which could spark a fire and ultimately destroy an entire house.

Thermal Runaway

Thermal runaway in lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) is a serious threat that can result in the release of toxic gases and even ignite. This process is caused by external heating sources as well as internal heat generation within the battery itself releasing excess energy that builds up in its cells.

Thermal runaway occurs when a cell’s temperature rapidly increases, which leads to its electrolyte boiling over and increasing pressure within. This creates an unpredictable chemical reaction which may be difficult to manage; its gases may combine with air oxygen to form explosive mixtures that threaten public safety.

Rapid temperature increase can quickly cause vapour cloud vapors to ignite, starting a fire which quickly spreads across multiple battery cells and construction materials causing significant destruction.

Maintaining an effective monitoring system is absolutely essential to keeping batteries healthy. Doing so enables you to detect faults or short circuits before they become more severe, and keeps an eye on their lifespan.

Batteries nearing their end of their working lives become less capable of dissipating heat generated by internal chemical reactions, decreasing their ability to function effectively and potentially leading to serious device damage.

Thermal runaway can diminish a battery’s capacity and other safety issues can compromise it, but there are things you can do to prevent thermal runaway from ever happening in the first place.

One way of doing so is keeping your battery at an ideal storage temperature range; between 40-70 degrees should be ideal.

One effective strategy to prevent thermal runaway is ensuring the battery’s casing and venting features are designed correctly; these elements have direct bearing on how likely thermal runaway will become.

Finally, it is of critical importance that batteries do not become too old. Old batteries require more time for charging to take place and may reduce heat dissipation potential.

By keeping these factors in mind, your business’s safety can be assured. Furthermore, working closely with an insurance broker to assess risk is also key.

Lithium Ion Battery Fires

Battery fires pose a great danger for any owner of rechargeable devices like laptops, tablets or cell phones, potentially leading to significant property damage and even potential death.

Lithium ion batteries are found in almost every electronic device we use, from smartphones and e-scooters to other forms of technology we rely on daily.

These batteries are highly flammable due to their composition of lithium salts and organic solvents. When overheated or entering thermal runaway mode, these chemicals can release toxic or hazardous fumes that can spread throughout the environment, leading to explosions or fires.

Consumer Product Safety Commission statistics show at least 25,000 incidents involving lithium-ion batteries that burned or overheated during the past five years, such as energy storage systems, test environments, shipping/storage activities and more.

As more consumers switch to lithium-ion batteries, companies must address their fire risks associated with them. Strategies that include risk analysis, storage methods and response protocols may help significantly in minimizing these threats.

For maximum effectiveness, lithium-ion batteries should not be stored near any combustible materials. To do so, place them in a secure container or section of your facility.

Lithium ion batteries should never be placed directly into a waste or recycling bin; their potential danger requires them to be separated out before disposal.

Many consumers, particularly younger ones, do not realize that lithium ion batteries are inherently flammable and when dropped or mishandled can quickly become dangerous and even start fires.

Extinguishing Battery Fires

Battery fires have become an increasing risk with more people opting for electric vehicles (EVs), marine craft, robots and other technologies powered by lithium ion batteries. Extinguishing such fires may not always be simple if they occur within a confined space or spread rapidly due to flammable material spreading rapidly around it.

Though battery fires pose risks, there are ways you can manage or extinguish one. Keep the batteries away from direct sunlight or sources of heat such as heaters; and store them in an approved fire-resistant storage container when not being used.

Immediately contact the fire department if a battery is found to be on fire, then use a Class A or B fire extinguisher to extinguish it. This step is especially crucial if the batteries are located within a warehouse or transportation location that requires special fire suppression requirements.

As with any fire, lithium ion battery fires must be treated as Class B flammable liquid fires; thus an ABC or dry chemical fire extinguisher should be utilized. In cases involving lithium metal, however, water-based solutions may work just as effectively against any emerging flames.

One solution is to use a hose nozzle designed to spray cool water directly into the bottom of your battery box and cool its cells, thus avoiding thermal runaway which could result in cells self-igniting – an extremely dangerous process.

Another popular solution for extinguishing battery fires is submerging them entirely into water, though this could pose serious environmental and safety concerns. Although effective at quelling small fires, submersion could cause toxic side-effects.

Relying on water to suppress lithium-ion battery fires remains a contentious topic among experts and various schools of thought, yet scientific research and experience indicate it should not cause violent reactions when dealing with smaller battery fires.