Suspected e-Scooter Battery Fire Scorches Retirement Home, Claims 1 Life

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This is the latest unfortunate occurrence of fire that left 1 dead is believed to be caused by a lithium-ion battery.

A blaze that was likely to be sparked by a mobility scooter battery has torched a retirement home and claimed the life of an elderly man in Adelaide, Australia.

Trevor Fielden, 83, was found dead at Crestview Retirement village at Hillcrest in the city’s northeast.

His wife, Grace, escaped the inferno and was taken to the Royal Adelaide hospital with minor injuries.

Emergency services rushed to the site at 10:15 p.m. on Jan. 15 and found two of the three adjoined units engulfed in flames. The neighbouring residents were not home at the time.

Twenty-four firefighters worked for an hour to put out the blaze and prevented it from spreading to the third unit, Metropolitan Fire Services (MFS) said.

The estimated damage to the property was $250,000 (US$164,000).

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Tony Randello, chief executive of Crestview operator Aveo, said that according to early reports from first responders, the blaze was likely sparked by a mobility scooter battery that was charging overnight.

In a statement on Jan. 16, he said his thoughts were with the victim’s family.

“We extend our heartfelt thanks to all emergency services personnel for their swift response,” Mr. Randello said.

“Aveo’s community team are providing counselling and support to residents, and the families of those impacted by this incident.”

The operator would also support the residents in affected buildings nearby to make alternative accommodation arrangements, Mr. Randello added.

People have expressed condolences to Mr. Fielden, a respected and longstanding member of the Prospect Broadview Bowling Club.

“It is with a heavy heart we acknowledge the sudden passing of Trevor Fielden,” the club’s executive Kerry Johnston wrote in a Facebook post.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Grace as she recovers in hospital. Condolences to Trevor’s family and friends.

“Trevor you will be missed by all at PBBC.”

One person described Mr. Fielden as “one of life’s true gentlemen.”

“It was a privilege to have known and played bowls with you, RIP Trevor!”

Another said, “I have only got to know Trevor for short time and he was a very friendly person and am sorry to hear of his passing and condolences to his family and may he Rest in Peace.”

A Series Of Fire Incidents Caused By Li-ion Batteries

The incident at the Crestview retirement village is the latest in a string of blazes in Australia that were linked to lithium-ion batteries in bikes, scooters, and electric vehicles.

In early January, a large fire engulfed an e-bike factory in Croydon, Sydney’s inner west. It took over 60 firefighters and 15 fire trucks to extinguish the blaze.

Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) Superintendent Joshua Turner expressed concern about the risks of lithium batteries, saying that they “maintain a high level of heat when they’re on fire.”

“Fire rescue is doing a lot of work in researching lithium batteries and the effect it’s going to have on firefighting in the future,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

On the morning of Oct. 16, 2023, firefighters were called to an inner-city studio apartment, which was set ablaze by a faulty lithium-ion e-bike battery explosion.

On Oct. 4, 2023, a hostel in Darlinghurst caught fire, with CCTV footage showing two backpackers trying to escape after a ball of flames erupted from the room.

In late September, a Tesla Megapack battery energy storage system (BESS) caught fire at one of Australia’s largest renewable energy storage facilities.

Regulator Urged Consumers To Be Cautious

Australia’s competition regulator has warned consumers about serious fire hazards from batteries and asked consumers to choose, check, use, and dispose of the batteries safely.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in household items, including most mobile phones, laptops, e-scooters, e-bikes, and power tools.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said while incidents are rare, they “appear to be increasing and are serious when they occur.“

“The batteries can overheat or explode if they are used, charged or disposed of incorrectly or if they are damaged, and fires caused by the batteries can be dangerous and difficult to extinguish,” they said in October.

ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe noted that lithium-ion battery fires had resulted in property damage and serious injuries, including burns, chemical exposure and smoke inhalation.

“Managing lithium-ion battery safety is complex, and government, industry and consumers must tackle the challenge together,” Ms. Lowe said.

“Consumers should avoid mixing and matching chargers, unplug products when fully charged and charge batteries in a cool, dry place and away from combustible materials like beds, lounges or carpet.”

She asked people to check their lithium-ion batteries for overheating signs of swelling, leaking or venting gas and immediately stop using their product if these signs are present.

The ACCC also noted that incidents of lithium-ion battery fires are likely to be underreported due to the way how information is collected and shared.

Meanwhile, the MFS urged residents to always use lithium-ion batteries according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

“Never modify or tamper with the battery system, including attempting to build your own battery or equipment,” the fire service said.

“It is important to monitor batteries on charge and disconnect them once the indicator shows that a device or battery has been fully charged.”

Isabella Rayner and AAP contributed to this report.

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