London’s top burns unit raises concerns over lithium battery fires

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Chelsea and Westminster NHS Hospital burns unit, renowned as the largest unit in the South of England, is appealing to London residents to heed the Brigade’s advice on lithium battery safety following a series of serious burns resulting from e-bike and e-scooter fires.

Avoid blocking escape routes

The key recommendations from the Brigade focus on the importance of not obstructing escape routes with e-bikes and e-scooters.

Additionally, it emphasises the necessity of using the appropriate charger and battery for each vehicle.

Following these guidelines is crucial for minimising the risk of such incidents.

E-bike and e-scooter incidents: A rising concern

Sub Officer David Ardrey from Kensington fire station, after a recent visit to the Burns Unit, stated: “E-bike and e-scooter incidents are increasing, with our teams attending roughly every other day.”

He continued: “The frequency with which London’s premier Burns Unit confronts severe injuries from these fires is alarming.

“Proper storage of e-bikes and e-scooters away from fire escape routes is crucial.

“Often, blocked escape paths force individuals to confront the flames, leading to grave injuries.

“In the event of a fire, the best action is to alert emergency services immediately.”

With a surge in such burn injuries, the Brigade encourages e-bike and e-scooter users to be aware of the potential hazards when purchasing conversion kits online.

Additionally, they caution against the use of mismatched chargers and batteries.

Lithium battery fires: Impact on patients

Isabel Jones, a consultant specialising in Burns and Plastic Surgery at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, shared: “The injuries stemming from e-bike and e-scooter fires present a relatively new challenge.

“These burns are often deep and necessitate surgical intervention.”

She added: “The fast-paced spread of these fires means the injuries we treat are extensive and require prolonged hospital stays.

“The resultant scars can be permanent and severe.

“It is imperative that the public is educated on these risks, including the potential for toxic fumes.”

This year, London has witnessed at least 146 fires related to e-bikes and e-scooters, 121 of which specifically involved e-bikes.

These incidents have resulted in three fatalities and 58 injuries.

Economic pressures have driven some to seek cheaper alternatives, but this can heighten fire risks, especially when lacking the necessary expertise or opting for subpar batteries and incompatible chargers.

A victim’s experience

Roger Mityero, a 41-year-old resident of Tulse Hill, recounted his traumatic experience with an e-bike fire: “I had a mere two minutes to respond. The entire household was at risk from the rapidly spreading fire.

“My immediate response was to relocate the bike and open the front door.

“However, the ensuing explosion severely burned my left arm.”

For comprehensive safety guidelines, visit the Brigade’s ChargeSafe campaign.

IFSJ Comment

The regular incidents of e-bike and e-scooter fires, largely attributed to lithium battery malfunctions, underscores the urgent need for widespread public awareness and adherence to safety protocols.

The devastating consequences of these fires, as highlighted by professionals at the Chelsea and Westminster NHS Hospital burns unit, emphasise the risks associated with overlooking safety guidelines.

As the frequency of these incidents rises, it becomes paramount for users to be vigilant, informed, and proactive in mitigating potential threats.

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