SAN DIEGO — A fire broke out in a Barrio Logan apartment building that fire officials say was caused by an electric bike battery explosion, leaving one of the residents seriously injured.
Around 6 a.m., the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department was notified of the fire in one of the downstairs apartments at the complex near the corner of 30th Street and Boston Avenue.
The fire was sparked by the overheating of a lithium ion battery in one of the resident’s e-bike, which was plugged in to charge. Firefighters were able to knock the blaze down in a little under five minutes, according to SDFD.
One of the two residents in the apartment, an unidentified man, attempted to put the blaze out with water, prompting the battery to explode and spread to the entire apartment, SDFD Battalion Chief Chris Babler said.
The man, who was shirtless at the time, sustained major burns after lithium got on him when the battery exploded. He was transported to the UCSD Health Burn Center, according to Babler.
The other resident in the apartment, a woman, was evacuated and treated by first responders. The apartment directly upstairs was also evacuated, due to smoke damage from the fire.
There were no other reported injuries to firefighters and residents.
All residents in the impacted apartments were displaced and are being assisted by the American Red Cross, Babler said.
Across the county, there have been an uptick in fires caused by these kinds of lithium ion batteries found in electric bikes and scooters.
“In all of these fires, these lithium-ion fires, it is not a slow burn, there’s not a small amount of fire, it literally explodes,” New York City Fire Department Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said to reporters early last month, following a five-alarm fire in a Bronx caused by an e-bike battery.
“It’s a tremendous volume of fire as soon as it happens, and it’s very difficult to extinguish and so it’s particularly dangerous,” Kavanagh continued.
San Diego Fire officials and other local e-bike owners stress that people who own an e-bike or scooter exercise caution when charging the battery.
Bill Connard, owner of OB eBikes, told FOX 5 that this is something that he has seen frequently with lithium ion batteries, which are generally used in electric scooters, skateboards and bikes.
For those who own devices with these kinds of batteries, Connard said that there are certain issues to watch out for when charging your lithium ion battery.
One of the things he stressed is making sure that owners are charging lithium ion batteries with the proper charger. Connard said that just because the charging port fits, does not mean it’s the correct one.
“People are using wrong chargers, you’re sending too much power to a battery that’s not capable,” Connard said.
As Connard explained, each lithium ion battery can only take a certain amount of voltage before it begins to overheat, so it’s important to make sure that people use the charger designed for the specific battery in their e-bike or scooter.
Other measures Connard said to take in order to prevent a lithium ion battery from causing a fire are:
- Checking the battery for any damage.
- Avoid moisture on the battery.
- Steer clear of using inexpensive lithium ion batteries.
- Avoid charging the battery overnight, without a timer.
- Do not try to repair a lithium ion battery on your own.
“Keeping e-bikes inside, plugged into the charger has proved to be dangerous,” Battalion Chief Babler said. “Make sure your smoke detector is working… secure that (lithium ion) battery overnight and leave it off the charger, if you can.”