Authorities warn home fires by lithium-ion batteries on the rise

  • Big jump in the number of lithium-ion battery home fires in WA
  • Poorly manufactured eRideables a serious fire risk
  • Authorities urging Western Australians to treat charging devices with extra care

Emergency services have responded to an increasing number of lithium-ion battery fires this year with the statistics on track to break last year’s total of recorded incidents.

Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said local authorities are concerned that alongside the significant increase in lithium-ion devices that Western Australians could be putting themselves at risk in charging the highly flammable products.

During winter people are more inclined to bring rechargeable devices inside their homes and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) is urging Western Australians to take precautions to protect themselves from battery fires following deaths in New South Wales and Queensland.

DFES has responded to 70 fires ignited by lithium-ion batteries so far this year – on target to pass the previous record of 110 set in 2023.

Authorities are particularly concerned about the spate of residential fires sparked by e-bikes or e-scooters that can spread very quickly and are difficult to extinguish.

Batteries of cheaper products have flooded the market in recent years and are now becoming damaged or reaching their end-of-life. These batteries are being replaced by incompatible alternatives, posing a serious fire risk.

eRideables have already caused 20 fires this year, including two devastating incidents last week that destroyed homes in Karratha and Carlisle.

Batteries that enter thermal runaway and explode can start a fire metres away from where they are being charged, potentially engulfing an entire home in a matter of minutes.

To reduce the risk of lithium-ion battery fires, DFES recommends to:

  • purchase reputable products and source replacement batteries from the original supplier;
  • regularly check for signs of physical damage and overheating;
  • charge devices away from flammable items such as beds or couches;
  • set a timer that will remind you to remove a fully charged device before you go to sleep; and
  • install a hard-wired interconnected smoke or heat alarm in areas of the home where you are charging devices.

For further information on fires in the home visit https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/site/fire-in-the-home/prevent.html

Lithium-ion Battery Fires in WA

Year

Number of fires

Main ignition source

2024 (as of 7 June)

70

eRideables (20)

2023

110

eRideables (31)

2022

90

In storage or rubbish (27)

2021

69

In storage or rubbish (19)

2020

48

In storage or rubbish (11)

As stated by Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson:

“Lithium-ion batteries are relatively safe when you buy them from reputable suppliers and treat them with care.

“But compromised products that overheat and explode have caused fatal house fires overseas and interstate – we don’t want Western Australians at risk.

“The Cook Government is investing an additional $140 million to ensure our emergency services are well equipped and prepared for all types of incidents, but people also need to take responsibility for their actions when it comes to fire safety.

“There will always be the temptation to try to save a bit of money on a cheaper product, but I urge Western Australians to be careful.

“Most homes fires involving lithium-ion batteries go unnoticed before it is too late.”

As stated by Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM:

“Lithium-ion batteries have fast become one of the greatest fire risks in our homes as products like eRideables and cordless power tools become more common.

“But these fires are preventable if you follow safety advice including charging on a hard surface and not leaving devices on charge indefinitely.

“We’re also asking the community to be vigilant around other fire hazards such as candles, unattended heaters and kitchen fires. Home fires typically spike in the cooler months when people are spending more time indoors using heating or electronic devices.

“Make sure you have a home fire escape plan, ensure your family knows what to do if a fire starts and check your smoke alarm regularly. Only a working smoke alarm will wake you up and give you vital time to escape.”

/Public Release. View in full here.