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Battery warning following house fires

People are being urged to Take Charge and Be Safe with their electrical items following two fires involving batteries in a matter of days.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is highlighting the risks after firefighters in Cambridge and Peterborough were called to incidents involving electric vehicle batteries.

Last week a crew from Cambridge attended a fire in the city involving an e-bike. The occupant saw the device was smoking as soon as it was plugged in to charge, so they quickly moved it to a safe place away from the house. Those quick actions meant they not only limited the damage to the property, but also escaped any injury.

This week crews from Dogsthorpe and Stanground in Peterborough were called to a fire in Werrington, where an e-scooter battery caught fire after being damaged the day before. Although the fire blocked the main exit of the house, as the battery was placed near the door, the occupants managed to escape unharmed thanks to the advice given by the Service’s Control Operator, who were able to talk them to safety.  

Station Commander Gareth Boyd, one of the Service’s community risk managers, said: “Both these incidents highlight the potential risks that lithium-ion batteries can pose and how it is vital for people to be alert when charging any kind of device. It also shows how important it is to dispose of batteries safely.

“Most devices are supplied with the correct plugs and cables to ensure they are charged safely and don’t take more power than needed, as well as shut-off function when the battery is fully charged. Replacement chargers sometimes don’t have these features and can end up overheating the battery, which causes thermal runaway leading to explosions. Luckily for the incident in Cambridge, the occupant saw the battery smoking before this could happen.”

Working smoke alarms alerted the residents in the house in Werrington to the battery being on fire, who were asleep at the time.

Gareth added: “This incident highlights the importance of having working smoke alarms in your home. We recommend having at least one on each floor of the home and that they are tested regularly.

“The occupant did the right thing by removing the damaged battery from the e-scooter, as there was clearly a fault with it after it was knocked off the countertop the day before. It’s important to put them in a safe place until they are disposed of, preferably outside and away from any exits.

“This shows the importance of disposing of all batteries safely, either at a local household waste recycling centre or a battery bank at a local shop. Batteries should never be disposed of with household rubbish.”

More information and safety tips on how to Take Charge and Be Safe can be found in our Community Safety section.

e-bike fire