Fire service warning for electric bike owners after battery blaze destroys flat in Salford
Firefighters are highlighting the potential dangers of faulty battery packs for electric bikes and scooters by sharing pictures of a flat destroyed by a fire.
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Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) has shared pictures of the blackened remains of the flat in the high-rise building Mulberry Court following the fire just after Christmas in 2022.
An investigation by the fire service has found the blaze was caused by a faulty lithium-ion battery pack from an electric bike which the owner had been charging in the bedroom.
Owners of e-bikers and e-scooters are now being urged to be careful and follow guidance when recharging the batteries for their transport.
What happened in the fire at Mulberry Court?
Fire broke out in a 10th floor flat at Mulberry Court, a 17-storey building in Salford, on the morning of 27 December 2002. At the height of the incident six fire engines, a turntable ladder, a technical response unit, a command support unit and two more supporting fire engines were all in attendance at the scene. The building also had to be partially evacuated.
Firefighters using breathing apparatus tackled the intense flames and brought it under control using water jets. They also managed to contain the blaze in the flat where it started and prevent it spreading into the rest of the building.
They spent more than six hours at the scene and the dramatic images which have been shared by GMFRS show the considerable extent of the damage the blaze caused to the flat where it broke out.
The fire service conducted an investigation and the results show the blaze broke out because a faulty lithium-ion battery pack for an e-bike was being charged in the bedroom.
GMFRS is now urging all owners of e-bikes and e-scooters, which have risen significantly in popularity in recent years, to make sure they follow all the safety guidance when charging them.
In another incident the front window of a house in Failsworth, in Oldham, was blown out following a fire which originated with a number of modified electric bikes which were in the property.
What advice has been given to owners of electric bikes?
GMFRS says that if you own an e-bike or an electric scooter you should:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storing your electric bike/scooter
- Fit smoke or heat detection in the room where you charge or store your electric bike/scooter
- Store electric bikes/scooters and their batteries in a cool place. Avoid excessively hot or cold places
- Always use the manufacturer approved charger for the product
- Don’t overcharge and always unplug your charger when it’s finished charging
- Don’t leave batteries to charge while you are asleep or away from the home
- Don’t charge batteries or store your electric bike/scooter near combustible or flammable materials.
- In the event of an electric bike/scooter or lithium-ion battery fire – do not attempt to extinguish the fire. Get out, stay out and call 999.
More specific safety advice for e-bike and e-scooter owners can also be found on the GMFRS website.
What has been said about the fire?
GMFRS head of prevention, area manager Billy Fenwick, said: “This is an incident, given it is in a high-rise building, that could have had more severe consequences had firefighters not acted so quickly in controlling and extinguishing the fire, alongside the building’s fire safety measures.
“The fire started due to a faulty lithium-ion battery pack that was left charging, and the pictures show just how quickly this type of fire can develop through a property. In 2022, we saw 14 fires caused by electric bike and scooter batteries which is up from eight in 2021 and just three in 2020. Thankfully we haven’t seen any similar incidents yet this calendar year, a trend we would like to see maintained.
“We are urging everyone with an electric bike to please be responsible and follow our safety guidance. Batteries can be a fire risk if they’re over-charged, short circuited, or damaged, so it’s important to protect them against being damaged and to charge them safely.
“It’s also important that when buying an electric bike, to purchase them – as well as the batteries and chargers - from a reputable seller. It’s the same if you are buying a kit to convert your normal bike to an electric one; buy from a reputable seller and check that it complies with British or European standards.”
Salford housing association Salix Homes has also launched its own fire safety campaign following the Mulberry Court incident to help keep its tenants safe.
Stewart Kerr, building safety manager at Salix Homes, said: “Thankfully no one was injured during the fire at Mulberry Court, but the outcome could have been very different, and we want to warn our residents about the dangers associated with charging the lithium batteries in e-bikes and e-scooters.
“We’ve carried out extensive fire safety improvements to all our tower blocks in Salford, and fortunately the fire was contained to the flat where it originated, but the ferocity at which the fire took hold and the damage it caused to the property is quite shocking.
“The fire service has seen a rise in e-bike related fires and we are seeing more of our tenants owning and using e-bikes and e-scooters, so we want to ensure they’re taking the necessary steps to ensure they’re not putting peoples’ lives or homes at risk.”