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Lithium battery-related fire likely cause of Lake Mac deaths

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A Lithium-Ion battery-related fire appears to have claimed the lives of two women in a unit block at Lake Macquarie last week.

About 4.10am on Thursday 29 February, four people were inside a townhouse at Teralba when the blaze broke out.

While two of the occupants escaped the intense flames, two others weren’t so lucky.

Their bodies were uncovered from the unstable ruins on Friday 1 and Saturday 2 March respectively.

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) investigators believe a battery was compromised and immediately went into “Thermal Runaway”, a process where a Lithium-Ion cell overheats and gives off toxic gases before exploding.

According to statistics, there have been 45 similar fires in NSW so far this year… or five incidents a week.

But, it’s understood the Lake Macquarie fatalities are the state’s first recorded deaths in a Lithium-Ion battery-related fire.

FRNSW is now reinforcing its public warnings about the dangers of such batteries when comprised, damaged or allowed to overheat.

“This appears to be what we have been fearing for a while now, a person or persons dying due to a Lithium-Ion battery-related fire in this state,” FRNSW Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said.

“We continue to warn the community about the potential for these batteries to explode in flames.

“Use extra caution when using them… when they go into ‘thermal runaway’, the danger is immediate.

“These fires are extremely intense and volatile, even our firefighters find putting them out challenging because they burn so hot.”

NSW Police is working to formally identify the victims and prepare a report for the NSW Coroner, who will officially decide the cause of the deaths.

Safety advice around Lithium-Ion batteries

  • Never sleep or leave home with your Lithium-battery-powered devices charging
  • Don’t leave them constantly on charge
  • If Lithium batteries are damaged or compromised, dispose of them properly
  • Don’t throw them out in the rubbish, they can start garbage truck or rubbish tip fires when compacted
  • Contact your local, approved recycling centre for disposal advice
  • Don’t leave devices charging on beds, sofas or around highly flammable materials
  • Try to charge devices outside if possible
  • Always buy reputable Lithium-battery brands and never “mix and match” components
  • Beware of cheap, substandard Lithium battery-powered devices
  • Avoid dropping, crushing or piercing battery cells
  • Store batteries and devices in a cool, dry area, away from combustible materials
  • Install active smoke alarms in your home/garage
  • Ensure you have a home evacuation plan in the event of fire
  • Don’t store or charge Lithium-Ion-powered devices near exit points in your home

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