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Brigade urges Londoners to check their e-bike after banned battery causes blaze

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London fire brigade issues safety warning following e-bike fire at hotel

The London Fire Brigade has issued a call to e-bike users to scrutinize their batteries in the wake of a fire instigated by an exploding battery, now classified as “dangerous” by the UK’s regulatory authority.

A hotel in Kensington became the scene of this incident on Friday 26 January, necessitating the intervention of approximately 25 firefighters to extinguish the blaze.

In response to a series of fires linked to the UPP battery, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) declared in January that it is enforcing actions against the battery’s manufacturer.

Withdrawal Notices have been dispatched to five online marketplaces and directly to 20 sellers, alongside the manufacturer based in China, instructing a halt in the supply of the UPP battery.

Official statements on the incident

Charlie Pugsley, the Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, remarked: “The recent enforcement action taken by the Office for Product Safety & Standards is a welcome step towards reducing the risk of customers being exposed to dangerous products.

“The lithium batteries that power these vehicles have failed catastrophically and caused devastating fires.

“We’re asking people to check whether they have a UPP battery at home. If you do, stop using it right away, and contact the seller.”

Graham Russell, Chief Executive of OPSS, added: “We consider these UPP batteries to be dangerous, and that is why we are taking this action to stop them being supplied.

“This fire in Kensington really emphasises why we’ve taken the action that we have.

“Consumers need to be aware of the risk of these batteries failing, and the potential fatal consequences that can occur.

“If anyone owns one, they should not use it and contact the seller for redress.”

Details of the fire and safety advice

The incident unfolded when a man, noticing his battery pack making a hissing noise and feeling unusually hot to the touch, placed it outside his hotel room.

The battery ignited about 20 minutes later, filling the corridor with smoke.

Despite his attempts to douse the fire with extinguishers, the intensity of the blaze made it uncontrollable.

Pugsley further advised: “This was a lucky escape for the occupant who inadvertently compromised his own escape route as well as others by placing it where he did in the corridor.

“If a battery is showing signs of failing, such as if it’s too hot, leave it alone and raise the alarm.

“In this case, the occupant picked the battery up before later trying to put out the fire using extinguishers.

“You should never try and tackle a lithium battery fire. Instead, get away and call 999.”

The London Fire Brigade has observed a 78 per cent increase in e-bike fires in 2023 compared to the previous year, with 155 e-bike fires and 28 e-scooter fires reported, resulting in three fatalities and approximately 60 injuries.

In light of these figures, the Brigade launched its #ChargeSafe campaign to promote awareness of the fire risks associated with e-bikes and e-scooters, providing safety tips for users.

IFSJ Comment

The London Fire Brigade’s cautionary appeal to e-bike users underscores the escalating concerns surrounding lithium battery safety.

The recent hotel fire in Kensington, attributed to a banned battery, accentuates the necessity for rigorous compliance with safety standards and regulations.

The proactive measures by the Office for Product Safety and Standards, including enforcement actions against the manufacturer of the UPP battery, highlight the critical need for vigilance and consumer awareness in mitigating fire risks.

As e-bikes and e-scooters gain popularity, the imperative for comprehensive safety protocols and education becomes more evident.

The Brigade’s #ChargeSafe campaign and the advice offered are instrumental in fostering a culture of safety and responsibility among users.

This incident serves as a reminder of the potential hazards associated with improper use and storage of lithium batteries, underscoring the importance of adhering to safety guidelines to prevent similar incidents.

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