Festive warning as fears grow over battery-related fires

The aftermath of a fire sparked by a Lithium-ion battery.
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Christmas shoppers are being warned to beware of sub-standard Lithium-ion battery-powered devices and the dangers of charging Lithium-ion products as fires surge across the state.

Consumers are advised to shop safely as well as for value, to ensure the gifts under the tree do not ruin the festive season.

NSW Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said firefighters are responding to an average of more than three battery fires a week from in-home charging issues or incorrect disposal.

“Batteries are featuring more prominently in fire statistics, with lithium power packs and charger fires an increasing concern for fire crews,” he said.

“When shopping for gifts this Christmas don’t cut corners when buying Lithium-ion battery-powered products.”

The latest Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) statistics show there have been 180 battery related fires so far this year, already outnumbering the 165 Lithium-ion battery-related fires which they responded to last year.

The State Government is raising awareness of how to prevent these potentially deadly fires and save lives.

Households are urged to use, store and dispose of batteries safely to combat the surge in house, garbage truck and waste facility fires.

To help ensure Lithium-ion batteries are used safely, FRNSW recommends storing them in a cool, dry area, always using compliant and approved charging equipment, and avoiding leaving them charging overnight.

“If a battery is compromised through damage or overheating, it can go into what we call ‘Thermal Runaway… It will pop and crackle, then give off toxic gas before exploding in intense flames that are extremely difficult to extinguish,” FRNSW Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said.

“If you’re buying presents that require Lithium-ion batteries this Christmas, make sure those batteries are manufactured by a trusted company.”

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe said bins are not the place for batteries.

“When damaged or crushed, such as in a garbage truck, they can start fires that are difficult to put out,” she said.

“More dedicated battery recycling points are popping up in shopping centres and office blocks, and at many council facilities, so do the right thing and take them to a drop off point for safe disposal.”

According to Minister for Fair Trading Anoulack Chanthivong, NSW Fair Trading has conducted inspections of 166 retailers selling electrical articles since March 2023.

Inspectors found 30 models with non-compliant chargers and the retailers were instructed to remove them from sale.

“When these products fail, it can come at terrible cost. I’m reminding buyers to store batteries safely and if they have concerns they should reach out to the manufacturer or NSW Fair Trading,” Chanthivong said.

“NSW Fair Trading is continuing to inspect products and businesses to inform the public of any concerns and to educate consumers about the dangers of Lithium-ion batteries.”

To find out more information, visit www.fire.nsw.gov.au/batteries.

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