Toronto Fire Service (TFS) is reminding people to be extra mindful after two fires involving lithium ion batteries occurred at the same building this month.
Late Sunday afternoon, two people were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation after an electric bike ignited at a residential high-rise in Toronto’s Yorkville area.
Just two weeks earlier, on Oct. 7, Toronto fire attended the same Toronto Community Housing building at 877 Yonge St., just north of Church Street, for a two-alarm fire, also involving an e-bike. In this case, paramedics assessed two people.
Both incidents are currently under investigation, Deputy Fire Chief Larry Cocco told CP24.com.
Cocco said that in recent years TFS has seen a notable spike in the number of calls for fires, and even explosions, involving lithium ion batteries, which are used to power smartphones, laptops, micro-mobility devices like electric scooters, e-bikes, and hover boards as well as e-cigarettes, smoke alarms, and toys among other things.
In 2022, Toronto fire responded to a total of 29 calls involving lithium ion batteries.
So far this year, the fire department has already responded to 51 incidents and there’s still more than two months to go.
Cocco said that lithium ion batteries can be useful as they pack a lot of power in a compact space, however with that concentration of energy, the risk that they could catch fire or blow up increases.
He said that people who find themselves in close proximity to lithium ion battery fires/explosions can be seriously hurt or even killed.
Since 2020, TFS has recorded one such fatality and several other injuries related to incidents involving these devices, which he underlined aren’t “inherently dangerous.”
Further, these fires can also cause significant property damage, Cocco said, pointing to one incident that caused millions of dollars in damage at a warehouse.
Some of the most common reasons why lithium ion batteries ignite are due to overheating, electrical failure, or damage, noting challenges often arise when they aren’t used properly or when they’re unrated and unaccredited, he said, adding lithium ion batteries may also experience a phenomenon called thermal runaway, when they heat up over time and ignite days or even weeks later, resulting in “rapid, violent events.”
“Do your research,” Cocco urged.
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