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Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service issues electrical fire safety advice ahead of festive season

Electrical goods with lithium-ion batteries can catch fire quickly and with little warning. That’s the message from Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) which is issuing fire safety guidance to residents of Berkshire throughout November.

Lithium-ion batteries are found in many household electrical goods such as laptops, mobile phones, e-bikes and some vapes. The batteries can cause sudden and ferocious fires if misused or damaged.

Gail Muirhead, Prevention Manager commented: “Products using lithium-ion batteries are incredibly popular. Generally speaking these products are safe. However, misusing electrical goods, even those as commonplace as mobile phones and vapes, can have fatal consequences.

“If you’re thinking of buying a new electronic device ahead of the festive season, make sure you purchase them from a reputable retailer. Similarly, only use approved chargers for your electronic goods. Charging batteries overnight, or overcharging them, can damage the battery and increase the risk of fire.

“E-scooters and e-bikes can be particularly dangerous, especially when charging them indoors. A devastating failure of a battery and charging equipment may occur if left to overheat, often with very little prior warning. This can lead to an unusually intense fire that gives off toxic gases and large amounts of smoke.”

Last December, RBFRS was called to two serious incidents in Berkshire, caused by an e-bike and e-scooter chargers. The danger occurs when e-bikes and e-scooters are left on charge and unattended in homes or in communal areas such as hallways and stairwells, blocking emergency escape routes in multi-occupied buildings. The risk increases particularly when they are charged indoors, especially overnight when occupants are asleep.

Fire damage to residential property following an e-bike fire
Fire damage to residential property following an e-bike fire.

Berkshire residents can help to protect themselves and others from the dangers of lithium-ion battery fires by following this guidance:

  • Charge batteries whilst you are awake and alert and do not charge them if you are away from home;
  • Do not overcharge your batteries. Check the instructions for charge times;
  • Always use the manufacturer approved chargers for your electronic items and carefully follow the instructions provided;
  • Purchase electrical goods from reputable retailers;
  • Unplug the chargers when you have finished using them;
  • Check your batteries regularly for any signs of damage;
  • Avoid charging items near combustible or flammable materials;
  • If possible, avoid charging e-bikes and e-scooters indoors;
  • If you need to dispose of a damaged or end of life battery, don’t dispose of it in your household waste or normal recycling;
  • Ensure your smoke alarms are working; and
  • In the event of a fire involving a lithium-ion battery, do not attempt to put it out. Get out, stay out and call 999.

For further electrical fire safety information, visit the RBFRS website.