Madison Fire pushing to educate people on lithium-ion battery safety

MFD says, above all else, do not attempt to put out a battery if it does start a fire. Get out of the building and call 911.
Updated: 5 hours ago
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Madison Fire Department says a rise in fires attributed to lithium-ion batteries is a growing cause of concern around the U.S. and is pushing for better education on the devices to try and prevent fires.

“A significant increase in the number of fires that’s due to more and more accessibility,” said fire marshal Bill Sullivan. “They are being used in more and more products every day, so just having more and more opportunities than for a mishap.”

Fire departments nationwide are seeing more of those mishaps turn into deadly fires. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 19 people died in 2022 due to fires or overheating incidents traced back to E-Bikes, E-Scooters, and Hoverboards. Sullivan says because the product sales over the past two years have jumped, the department is now contending with more cheaply made devices holding volatile lithium-ion batteries, which are extremely challenging to put out once a fire starts.

“If we can prevent that fire from ever happening, the best way to do that is to make sure that we’re buying equipment from reputable manufacturers and that they have gone through a third-party listing and testing service,” says Sullivan.

Simple measures like not charging an overheating battery, leaking, emitting a smell, or while away from home can help avoid an accident. And remember to check for U-L Labs labels to ensure proper testing was conducted. Already in 2023, the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus has suffered two fires traced back to the batteries, prompting UW housing to push for more education.

“Yeah, I’m pretty confident that there will be some education about lithium batteries and safety for residents, you know, coming out in the fall for new students,” said the director of marketing for campus housing, Brendon Dybdahl. “Educate residents about it sure, get ahead of it before it’s just a few minor incidents.”

MFD says, above all else, do not attempt to put out a battery if it does start a fire. Get out of the building and call 911.

“There’s been some significant documentation of the violent release of energy when these fires start, so it is not advisable to attempt to put out a fire,” said Sullivan.

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