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Li-ion battery in scooter sparks Colo. apartment fire

Colorado Springs firefighters quickly extinguished a fire on the second floor involving an electric scooter

By Abbey Soukup
The Gazette

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A recent apartment complex fire was caused by a lithium-ion battery found inside an electric scooter, according to the Colorado Springs Fire Department.

The fire was reported just before 8:45 p.m. Thursday at The Lookout at Broadmoor apartments at 816 Oxford Lane, just off South 8th Street. One engine responded to the scene and the fire was extinguished in roughly five minutes, according to CSFD spokesperson Ashely Franco.

Officials said the fire was caused by a lithium-ion battery used to power an electric scooter that was found charging on a second-floor balcony. The fire was contained to the balcony and no injuries were reported.

Photos released by the fire department show a severely burned and misshaped battery and the charred shell of an electric scooter lying on its side. The scooter was similar to the Lime Scooters available for rent throughout Colorado Springs.

Deputy Fire Marshal Kris Cooper said the growing popularity of lithium batteries — especially in the use of electric scooters — is a growing concern for fire officials around the country.

“Throughout the country lithium-ion related fires are being reported on a regular basis,” Cooper said. “Statistics are showing the instability of Lithium-Ion battery technology is a significant fire risk.”

Devices such as vape pens, cellphones, laptops and other personal electronic devices often utilize lithium batteries and are subject to fire risk, Cooper said. However, battery malfunctions in power tools and electronic bikes and scooters have been most impactful in Colorado Springs.

“The greatest risk associated with these batteries occurs while the battery is being charged or where there has been physical damage to the battery cell itself,” Cooper said, adding that although CSFD has seen many incidents relating to lithium battery malfunctions in electronic bikes and scooters, they have all been with privately owned vehicles and not the public devices offered by the city through Lime.

In response to the rise in lithium-ion battery incidents, the department has established the Lithium-Ion Task Force, which includes CSFD’s Hazardous Material Response Team, the Division of the Fire Marshal, Colorado Springs Utilities and the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department.

“Through this task force we are working to identify best practices for mitigation of fire risk associated with lithium-ion batteries and identifying proper emergency response protocols,” Cooper said.

While there are no definite means of preventing lithium-ion battery fires, Cooper offered some safety practices to keep in mind when keeping these devices in your home:

—Never leave a battery charging unattended.

—Once a battery is finished charging remove it from the charger.

—Only use original charging equipment provided by the device manufacturer.

—Only use original batteries in electronic devices, avoid secondhand or off-brand batteries.

—Never charge a battery that has been subject to physical damage.

—Dispose of batteries properly through a commercial battery recycling service.

—E-bikes and e-scooters should be charged and stored outside of buildings.

“As this is a constant moving target, we are working hard to study this topic and learn from events as they happen,” Cooper said.

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