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Baltimore Co. Firefighters see increase of battery fires on e-bikes and scooters

Lithium Ion Battery Training
Posted at 5:14 PM, Jun 21, 2023

BALTIMORE COUNTY — E-scooters and e-bikes are becoming a popular way to get around, but their batteries are drawing concern in Baltimore County as they are starting fires.

It's in much of what we use every day, lithium-ion batteries, from phones, laptops and toys to even the way we get around.

But when these batteries fail or overheat, they can explode and release gases, starting a fire that can take seconds to spread.

"It could be a defect already inside of it, could be you dropped it or punctured it, it could be if you've tampered with it. There's a lot of different reasons,” said Lt. Caroline Rudacille with the Baltimore County Fire Department.

An issue she says they're seeing is an increase of is e-scooter and e-bikes catching fire. The lithium-ion batteries power these machines but when improperly charged they can become dangerous.

"The key thing is that you're charging these in safe places, not inside your house, not around doors anything like that where it would block progress if one of these were to catch fire,” said Lt. Rudacille.

Wednesday, Baltimore County Firefighters got special training because as technology using lithium-ion batteries rapidly increases, these firefighters must keep up on how to respond if one catches fire.

“Training to identify what a compromised battery looks like and get it out of there and not leave any cells behind, if left behind they can start secondary fires,” said Rudacille.

This year alone there have been five fires from lithium-ion batteries in Baltimore County according to Lt. Travis Francis. Just two weeks ago, two scooters caught fire in Reisterstown.

"We had a residential dwelling catch fire and in that home it was found that there were two e-scooters plugged into the same outlet in the garage,” said Lt. Francis.

When the batteries on these e-scooters and e-bikes do catch fire, it can get tricky because they can't be extinguished with water. Bureau Chief Tim Rostkowski said they use a suppressant to put it out and how long it takes depends on the size of the battery.

"Basically, what this product does is if the battery were to catch on fire it kind of melts down and it's an encapsulating agent so it basically sucks to the battery and suffocates the battery so that it cannot continue to burn,” said Bureau Chief Rostkowski.

If an e-scooter or e-bike catches fire in your home, fire officials say to get out as soon as possible and call 9-1-1. Don't worry about putting the fire out on your own.