Firefighters take concerns about lithium-ion battery fires to Congress

From cell phones to tablets, lithium-ion batteries are found in items we use every single day. They’re even found in electric bikes and scooters you see on the street too.

Firefighters are now warning that certain uncertified batteries pose a major safety risk if they’re damaged, stored or charged incorrectly.

And the outcome can be deadly.

“One example of the detrimental results of these fires occurred last November, killing three generations of a family in one fire. Eighty-one-year-old Albertha West, her son, 58-year-old Michael West, and her grandson, 33-year-old Jamil West perished in that deadly fire because an e-bike containing an uncertified lithium-ion battery erupted in flames,” said Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn.

Flynn has been with the New York City Fire Department for 20 years. He told Congress that uncertified lithium-ion batteries are becoming one of the leading causes of deadly fires.

“These deadly fires do not discriminate: we see them in large cities and small rural areas, in red and blue states alike,” said Flynn.

Officials say these fires are also harder to extinguish because they need more water to put them out.

“The National Fire Academy is also increasing our training curriculum in order to include lithium-ion incident scene safety and suppression tactics,” said Lori Moore-Merrell, U.S. Fire Administration (USDA).

Firefighters are also urging Congress to pass legislation. One proposal would require the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to set mandatory standards for lithium-ion batteries.

Some lawmakers say they also want to make sure people are buying devices with these batteries from legitimate companies.

“Federal, state and local governments must take measures to prevent unsafe manufacturers from endangering the public with cheap lithium-ion batteries,” said Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R - New York

If you’re concerned that a product you own may be unsafe, you can search for it online at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

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