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‘Significant and aggressive’ e-bike fire on TTC subway car sparks safety concerns

Toronto’s fire chief has shared safety tips after a lithium-ion battery failure caused an e-bike to burst into flames aboard a TTC subway car Sunday afternoon.

Fire crews responded to the blaze at Sheppard-Yonge station at around 3 p.m. Once on scene, crews were able to control and suppress the fire quickly, officials said.

Toronto fire said there were no serious injuries reported, but one person was treated for non-life-threatening injuries by paramedics.

Click to play video: 'Toronto subway e-bike fire'

Toronto subway e-bike fire

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg told reporters Tuesday the fire resulted from the failure of a lithium-ion battery pack that provided the power source to an e-bike.

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“The failure of this lithium-ion battery pack occurred very rapidly, with the battery pack igniting into a significant and aggressive fire within seconds of the presence of visible gases being omitted from the battery,” Pegg said.

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Pegg said this is common for the battery type, as they contain significant amount of energy which is being stored in a small battery enclosure.

Adrian Grundy, a spokesperson for the TTC, told Global News the transit agency will determine next steps after it has a clearer understanding of what happened Sunday.

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“We are examining similar incidents of e-bike fires that have occurred on transit systems in North America and Europe,” Grundy said.

“We are also consulting with Toronto Fire Services to better understand what caused this e-bike to ignite, and to understand the risks associated with e-bike batteries.”

Pegg said lithium-ion batteries are commonplace for everyone as they are used in a wide-variety of devices including mobility devices, consumer electronics and battery-powered tools and equipment.

He noted that fires started by these batteries have steadily increased. In 2022, there were 29 fires in Toronto that resulted from the failure of a lithium-ion battery, and in 2023, this number increased to 55, with the majority of the fires involving e-bikes and scooters.

Pegg said these devices are safe when used correctly, but when they fail and ignite, they can cause an intense, rapidly building fire that poses an immediate risk to people in the area.

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“We have already experienced both loss of life and critical injuries as a result of these fires here in Toronto,” Pegg said.

As for next steps, Pegg says the fire department has established an internal working group that has “robust” operational policies in place for responding to these types of fires. The fire department is also working with the city to develop a comprehensive lithium-ion battery safety campaign that is being planned to launch in 2024.

Pegg shared safety tips for those using lithium-ion batteries in their devices:

  • Only use batteries and charging cords that are designed and approved by the manufacture for the device.
  • Do not charge a device under your pillow, on your bed or on a couch.
  • Avoid overcharging devices and unplug the device when it reaches a 100-per cent charge.
  • Do not place batteries in direct sunlight or leave them in hot vehicles.
  • Store lithium-ion batteries away from anything that can catch fire.
  • Avoid crushing, bending or dropping a device or charger.

Pegg also said to stop using a battery if you notice the following:

  • An odour is coming from the battery.
  • Any change in the colour or the shape of the battery.
  • Any abnormal amounts of heat coming from the battery.
  • Any leaking or noise coming from the battery.

You can find more safety information here.


&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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