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Handle lithium battery electronics with caution

JBLM Fire Prevention

Published: 03:21PM April 26th, 2018
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JBLM Fire Prevention

The remains of a blue tooth speaker are shown after the JBLM Fire Department extinguished the fire in a barracks at Joint Base Lewis-McChord March 23. It had ignited and exploded, sending burning material to the floor — igniting a gym bag — and embedding parts into the wall.

Laptops, e-cigarettes, smart phones and hover boards — items that use lithium batteries for power — can create dangerous fire situations.

Here on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, we’ve seen our share of incidents in the past few years, such as when an equipment remote control unit was put away extremely hot after use, causing it to ignite in in the plastic storage box. In another case, a unit returned from the field and put wet radio batteries in a card box, causing it to ignite after the Soldiers left. Thanks to a functioning fire alarm, the JBLM Fire Department arrived and found the fire.

During the latest incident March 23, the JBLM Fire Department was dispatched to a barracks with a report of a sprinkler activation. After extinguishing the fire in the corner of a smoke-filled room, investigators found a blue tooth speaker with a catastrophic failure. It had ignited and exploded, sending burning material to the floor — igniting a gym bag — and embedding parts into the wall.

Here are some tips for safely handling lithium batteries:

• Store in a waterproof, noncombustible container. Ensure all items are moisture-free and separate from other batteries;

• Charge when you are in the same room, and remain on site at least 30 minutes after storage;

• Contact the Environmental Division for assistance in proper storage and disposal;

• Never attempt to charge lithium cells with a charger not specify designed for the unit;

• Never charge a damaged device.

• Some signs of damage are: leaking, swelling, excessive heat, odors, sparking and smoking while charging;

• Never try to create your own battery packs.

Lithium batteries cannot be handled and charged causally like other battery types. The consequence of this practice can be very serious, resulting in major property damage and/or personal harm. Call 911 if you experience issues with any equipment with lithium batteries.

For more information, call JBLM Fire Prevention at 253-966-7164.