New Jersey fire departments emphasize lithium-ion battery safety after recent fires

A fire on a Sayreville school bus may have involved a lithium-ion battery, according to officials.

Tom Krosnowski

May 15, 2024, 9:57 PM

Updated 64 days ago


Sayreville fire officials said that Tuesday afternoon's school bus fire likely involved a lithium-ion battery. Departments around the state say the massive flames and smoke clouds aren’t unfamiliar when those batteries are involved.
"They store a lot of energy in a small package,” said Lakewood Fire Chief Jonathan Yahr. “With that fire being so intense and so fast, it tends to alter our tactics."
Lakewood schools are one of five districts earmarked for $19 million in grant funding for electric school buses - along with Union City, Elizabeth, Bloomfield and Newark.
"For the most part, those vehicles are incredibly safe,” Yahr said. “They've been tested. It's when they may be involved in a motor vehicle accident or they're being modified is when we seem to be having problems with them."
There was no official word on the cause of Tuesday's fire in Sayreville.
Lakewood crews are emphasizing lithium-ion battery safety. The batteries are in cell phones, as well as electric bikes, scooters and vehicles.
Investigators said a shipment of batteries caused a fire at a Lakewood UPS facility last summer.
"The UPS employees attempted to put it out with a dry chemical fire extinguisher and it had no effect on it,” Yahr said.
Fire officials say the biggest difference is the enormous amount of water needed to put these fires out.
The Lakewood Fire Department advises folks who have lithium-ion batteries to carefully follow the charging and storage instructions.
"If you were to charge your e-bike at the base of your stairwell and it was to burst into flames, you may not be able to use that stairwell (to escape) like you normally would,” Yahr said. “When dealing with a small fire in your kitchen, you’d have a little more time. They leave you no time to escape.”

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