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Mass. li-ion battery fires double the NFIRS-reported national average

The state’s fire service’s new tracking system reported 50 fires in six months, more than double the NFIRS average

By Bill Carey

STOW, Mass. — The Massachusetts Department of Fire Service’s new tracking tool has identified 50 lithium-ion battery fires in six months, doubling the rate reported nationally, according to a department press release.

Launched on October 13, 2023, the Lithium-Ion Battery Fire Investigative Checklist is used by state and local fire departments to record and analyze these fires, helping to spot trends and patterns.

“We knew anecdotally that lithium-ion batteries were involved in more fires than the existing data suggested,” State Fire Marshal Jon M Davine said. “In just the past six months, investigators using this simple checklist have revealed many more incidents than we’ve seen in prior years.”

Before the checklist, Massachusetts used the MFIRS, which feeds into the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), to track battery fires. However, NFIRS lacks detailed data on battery types, and reports are often delayed. Fires may also be categorized by device type instead of battery type, limiting the specificity needed by state officials.

From 2019 to 2023, the MFIRS noted an average of 19.4 lithium-ion battery fires each year. However, in just the past six months, the introduction of a new checklist has helped identify more than double that number. State Fire Marshal Davine believes this spike may be due to the growing use of battery-powered devices, increased attention from fire investigators or other factors. It’s also possible that some fires involving these devices aren’t specifically categorized as battery fires in the MFIRS or NFIRS records.

Lithium-ion battery fires have happened in 38 cities and towns, most frequently caused by micromobility devices such as scooters, e-bikes and hoverboards, which were involved in nine incidents, according to MFIRS records. Laptops and mobile devices like cell phones and tablets each caused eight fires, while power tools were linked to six. Out of the 50 fires reported, we know the charging status for 41; surprisingly, 56% of these devices were not charging when the fire started.

Lithium-ion Battery Fire Resources