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Emergency response to e-bike, e-scooter battery fire

For reasons our team often don’t understand, the focus of many globally is too frequently on road-registered electric vehicles & supporting charging infrastructure in buildings, & the implementation of often unproven or under-tested products that variously claim to ’suppress’ or ‘extinguish’ EV battery fires.

As our data clearly shows, with regards to lithium-ion battery fires, the primary risk to life & property safety is from light electric vehicles, encompassing electric bikes, scooters, skateboards, unicycles & hoverboards.

EV vs LEV stats, 2022 to 2023. Image: EV FireSafe

For this reason, we strongly believe governments & fire agencies should focus emergency responder training efforts on light electric vehicle (LEV) battery fires.

We’ve written a deep dive article in privately owned LEVs here, so if you haven’t already read it, this will give you a comprehensive look at the issues being experienced globally with LEV lithium-ion battery fires.

General guidance for emergency responder safety around LEV battery fires

As agencies start to develop guidance on LEVs and lithium-ion batteries in general, there are some key things responders can be aware of to keep themselves safer, however you should always follow your agency guidance or operating procedures. You may like to consider the following:

  • Be very cautious of any LEV that has been abused: ie. involved in a collision, submerged in water, has a unusual odour, has a bulging, heated or leaking lithium-ion battery pack

  • Always wear full PPE, including SCBA, around any LEVs suspected of having suffered abuse

  • Remove the LEV from any enclosed area where off-gassing from thermal runaway may increase the risk of vapour cloud explosion

  • Remove the LEV from any area where jet-like flames may spread to flammables or structures

  • If possible, place the LEV in a clear area on non-flammable, non-conductive surface such as concrete or dirt

  • NEVER place a damaged LEV in an emergency vehicle for transport to another location!

  • Remember that LEVs can ignite a second, third or even multiple times – this is due to stranded energy, which we explain in more detail here

How many LEV battery fires are fire agencies attending?

The rate of lithium-ion battery fire incidents has risen so dramatically globally in the past 6 months, some large agencies such as the London Fire Brigade & the New York Fire Department attending a LEV battery fire on a daily basis.

However, you don’t have to be a firefighter in a major city to experience the dangers of LEV battery fires. Firefighting colleagues based in the small rural town of Bacchus Marsh in Australia had an electric scooter in late 2022, followed two weeks later by an electric skateboard fire, both privately owned in residential properties.

Video: Bacchus Marsh Fire Brigade via owner.

These are just two of hundreds occurring here in Australia & many thousands happening around the world.

If those involved are lucky, the LEV will only damage their home. If not, there is a high risk of being hospitalised or killed.

How are e-bike, e-scooter battery fires being managed globally?

As with other forms of electrified transport, there are no commonly accepted methods for the emergency management of LEVs & no published standard operating procedures (SOPs) we’re aware of.

To better understand how emergency responders in various regions are managing LEV battery fire incidents, we reached out to a global network of contacts to ask the following questions:

  1. Removal from building: Once a light EV (LEV) has had a battery fire, how is it removed from the building? ie.down internal stairs, thrown out a window etc?

  2. Handover to owner: When is it deemed safe to handover to the owner/occupant?

  3. Advice to owner: What information do you give the owner/occupant? Ie. take it to the nearest recycling centre or drop off point?

  4. Containment methods: Do you take responsibility for the item? What success (or otherwise) have you had with containment methods?

Response from a contact in The Netherlands:

Removal from building:

It completely depends on the situation. You don’t want to walk through a building unnecessarily with a battery. Throwing down from five high is also not useful. Possible options are to remove under cover of a jet or in a watertank.

Handover to owner:

When the battery is submerged and no more smoke is emitted, the fire service's task is complete. The owner is responsible for cleaning up. In practice, discussions are still taking place with organizations that can collect the battery.

Advice to owner:

At the moment we mainly give advice to have the battery collected by a recognized organization. We are also in consultation with insurers on how to arrange this.

Containment methods:

In the past some colleagues took the battery to the fire department. Everybody is well informed right now. There is some discussion who is responsible for the dispose of the battery, municipality, insurer or company. In the Netherlands there is consultation between different organizations about this problem.

Second response from The Netherlands:

Removal from building:

Depending on the situation, but most of the times it is brought out, for example with a spade, in a bucket, or if thermal runaway has stopped, in the (gloved) hands.

Handover to owner:

This is a good question and we don’t have a clear answer for that. The battery of a LEV is most of the times submerged in a bucket of water or a empty garbage container, and most of the times the advice is given bring it to the environmental waste plant of a municipality 24h after the bubbling of the water has stopped. If it is in a building, the insurance company also plays a role in the aftermath of an incident. They can call in specialized compagnies to clean a building and remove the LEV.

Advice to owner:

See above.

Containment methods:

Nope, we try not to do so, as it is not our problem / responsibility. Cellblock has not been introduced in The Netherlands, the good old bucket of water (maybe with a bit of salt?) still works best here.

Response from a contact in the USA

I think it’s important to note that, in the USA, environmental regulations will vary from State to State, and even from county to county.

Removal from building:

  • We will attempt to remove all present LEVs /Batteries outdoors ASAP whether it was on fire, or near a fire and likely insulted by heat.

    • If loose batteries, they will go in bucket of water or a bucket of Cellblock if it is a long distance/height to outdoors.

    • If 3-5 stories, we will remove out the window with a rope.

    • If 6+ stories we will utilize the elevator emergency recall system. The bucket or device will go down unstaffed and be received by a firefighter in full PPE and SCBA

Handover to owner:

  • This is our process for a residential incident:

  • Our hazmat team will soak the batteries in a 20% NaCl solution in a bucket, barrel, drum, or roll-off container to de-energize the batteries

    • This will create Hydrogen gas, which requires a ventilated area

    • We are detecting 100% LEL at the mouth of the bucket and in the headspace, but 0% LEL as close as 3 inches above the opening. 0% LEL in the surrounding area when outdoors.

    • It has been taking approximately 2-24 hours, depending on amount of batteries, to get no more LEL readings.

    • If a backyard or other outdoor private property area is available to leave the buckets, we will do so and return after 24 hours to re-monitor the area. We leave them with a loose lid or open bung to allow for Hydrogen to escape.

    • We avoid taking possession whenever possible

    • Our Environmental Health team will return to monitor

    • Once deemed inert, we remove the batteries and sewer the water. The water can have a pH of 11+, so we neutralize it prior to sewering.

      • It has been deemed “non-haz” by lab testing both by our Environmental Health unit and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and allowed to be sent to a water treatment facility.

    • We give the “inert” batteries to the home owner to take to our City/County household hazardous waste for disposal.

    • If we MUST take possession of the batteries, we transport to a City/County open space area (e.g. landfill, yard, etc.) and follow the same process outlined. We will then hire a hazardous waste clean-up company to dispose of the waste.

    • If the event was caused by a citizen doing something nefarious (e.g. running an unpermitted business) we attempt to recover the cost through the City/County collections agency. If the event was a simple accident, we take on the cost.

Advice to owner:

  • Yes. We provide contact information and a website where they can get further information for recycling centers, dates of recycling events, or other options.

  • There is a website that we refer residents to managed by the EPA.

Containment methods:

  • As mentioned before, we only take possession from residents/ citizens and only as a last resort.

  • Businesses must handle with our supervision.

  • We have used some available containment products, but haven't fully tested them, which is why we use the 20% NaCl solution first. The private hazmat clean up companies are using the Cellblock DDR disposal kits to dispose of the waste.

  • Here’s the issue I have: If our department takes possession of the batteries, they become property of the City. If I simply use a kit to dispose of damaged batteries, I own the liability for what happens to that waste from “cradle to grave”, from the time I generate the hazardous waste to the time they get recycled/disposed/melted. If during transit, my waste creates an explosion, a fire, or another hazardous event and the transporter gets injured, damaged, killed, the City may be liable. This is why I feel that taking the first step to “neutralize” the batteries with the NaCl solution is safer and best practice.

Response from a contact in Norway:

Removal from building:

In Norway, all incidents are intervened by a specific method. A 7-step command system. This system has a question? What is the goal of intervention. What will be rescued? If this model is used for this question Emma. then what are we supposed to save? The rest of the building ? other room unharmed of smoke and fire? What will be the best solution for maintaining this goal. Is PPV used to prevent egress of smoke to nearby rooms? Is there any solution for containing the smoke? Casing ? blanket ? initial choises depends on the building and height, and whats avalieble. Our experience by other cases in closed quarters , parking garages , tunnels etc. the smoke is the problem. Contain the smoke and you have better options .

Handover to owner:

This is a point of focus now. We use the PPV and ventilates the building . But there is still the smell of the fire left. We advise the occupant not to return to the building if there is still the smell. We also include the insurance company to start refurbishment.

Advice to owner:

If it is a small battery, it will be submerged in a suitable container at the site, and recycled by the owner later on. A vehicle will be handled by recovery and insurance.

Containment methods:

  • No, we take no responsibility for the item only for the phase to normalize the accident. That could include follow up and in the case of a submerged vehicle the container will be transported to a safe location and be submerged for at least several days.

  • The idea of submerging a small vehicle is the safest method as of now. But we need to be ready for incidents of a bus og tractor trailer. As these also becoming electrified. No container will be of that size.

Emergency response to LEV lithium-ion battery fires is still emerging

In our conversations, we were unable to find a fire agency with a published standard operating procedure for light electric vehicle battery fires.

If you have an SOP or procedure you’d like to share with other responders, please let us know as we'd like to share it via our website.

You can email our director at or comment on this post, or our socials platforms. When you do so, please let us know if you’re happy for information to be shared publicly.

As always, we hope this has been helpful & thanks for supporting our website & research. To keep in touch please join our mailing list to keep up to date with the latest news in the lithium-ion battery fire space. You can also join us on Facebook, LinkedIn & YouTube.

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