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Meridian Fire seeing an uptick in fires caused by lithium-ion batteries

The Meridian Fire Department has responded to five garage fires in the past two weeks, three of those fires were caused by lithium-ion batteries.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Lithium-ion batteries are all around, charging many of the items that we use daily. But those little batteries could cause big problems if people are not careful.

The Meridian Fire Department has responded to five garage fires in the last two weeks, three of those fires were caused by lithium-ion batteries. 

"Essentially, it's just more amperage in a smaller space," Meridian Fire's Captain of Fire Inspection Brandon Medica said. 

Those little devices power many items, including some cell phones, laptops, cordless drills, cordless vacuums and e-bikes.  

"They're pretty safe, to be honest," Medica said, "if they're used in the right application."

With more people plugging in and buying devices, Medica said they have seen an increase in fires caused by lithium-ion batteries. 

Medica said many layers of ions work inside a lithium-ion battery to create energy. When one breaks, it goes into thermal runaway.

"It will create so much heat that it just keeps expanding all the way through the battery," Medica said. "So, it looks almost like fireworks or a very high-arching fire for a short amount of time. High energy, high heat - which can cause a fire anywhere where there's burnable material around it."

Lithium-ion batteries can get damaged if they are dropped, overheated, or used with the wrong charger - or a knock-off charger.

"They're putting that in their unit and all the amperages don't meet, and that's when you get fire's," Medica said.

Meridian Fire said to help prevent a fire from starting, be careful when storing lithium-ion batteries. The department added people should make sure to unplug devices that use lithium-ion batteries at night - and don't leave charging batteries without supervision.

"We kind of think of the theory as, you wouldn't start cooking and leave your kitchen and/or your house if you are cooking," Medica said. "Kind of think of that as the same theory with batteries."

Meridian Fire is also recommending people install heat detectors in their garages, which would alert residents if that space became too hot.  

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