Electric bicycle is thought to have caused fire

An electric bicycle is thought to have caused the fire in a tower block

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said it’s believed the man who died “fell after he climbed out of a window to try and escape the fire”. Eight others were treated in hospital after escaping the 17-storey building.

An electric bicycle is thought to have caused the fire at the tower block in Bristol, according to investigators.

Emergency services were called to the blaze on the top floor of Twinnell House, in the Easton area of the city, at about 2.00 am on Sunday.

A man is believed to have fallen to his death after climbing out of a window to escape the fire, which also resulted in eight people being treated in hospital.

One person continues to receive treatment for minor burns in hospital.

Avon Fire and Rescue area manager Mr Steve Quinton, who conducted the fire investigation, said prevention measures, including external cladding, worked and contained the blaze to the flat where it began, which had been fitted with a smoke alarm.

He said investigators identified the cause of the fire as “accidental, due to an electric bike”.

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police confirmed that it is believed “the man fell after he climbed out of a window to try and escape the fire”.

Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes at Bristol City Council, said: “We’d like to offer our condolences to the family and friends of the person who sadly lost their life on Sunday.”

Around 85 residents were evacuated from the 17-storey building and a rest centre was set up at St Nicholas Of Tolentino RC Church at Lawfords Gate.

Avon Fire and Rescue Service sent 11 fire engines to the scene, along with two turntable ladders and other specialist vehicles.

Use of Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries are compact, lightweight batteries that hold considerable charge and fare well under constant discharge-recharge conditions. The batteries are found everywhere — in laptop computers, cameras, mobile phones, and electric cars. Although accidents are rare, those that do occur may be spectacular, resulting in an explosion or fire. In order to understand why these batteries catch fire and how to minimize the risk of an accident, it helps to understand how the batteries function.

How Lithium Batteries Work

A lithium battery consists of two electrodes separated by an electrolyte. Typically, the batteries transfer electrical charge from a lithium metal cathode through an electrolyte consisting of an organic solvent containing lithium salts over to a carbon anode. The specifics depend on the battery, but lithium-ion batteries usually contain a metal coil and a flammable lithium-ion fluid. Tiny metal fragments float in the liquid. The contents of the battery are under pressure, so if a metal fragment punctures a partition that keeps the components separate or the battery is punctured, the lithium reacts with water in the air vigorously, generating high heat and sometimes producing a fire.

Why Lithium Batteries Catch Fire or Explode

Lithium batteries are made to deliver high output with minimal weight. Battery components are designed to be lightweight, which translates into thin partitions between cells and a thin outer covering. The partitions or coating are fairly fragile, so they can be punctured. If the battery is damaged, a short occurs. This spark can ignite the highly reactive lithium.

Another possibility is that the battery can heat to the point of thermal runaway. Here, the heat of the contents exerts pressure on the battery, potentially producing an explosion.

Minimize the Risk of Lithium Battery Fire

The risk of fire or explosion increases if the battery is exposed to hot conditions or the battery or internal component is compromised. You can lessen the risk of an accident in several ways:

  • Avoid storing at high temperatures. Don’t keep batteries in hot vehicles. Don’t allow a blanket to cover your laptop. Don’t keep your cell phone in a warm pocket. You get the idea.
  • Avoid keeping all your items containing lithium-ion batteries together. When you travel, especially on a plane, you’ll have all your electronic items in one bag. This is unavoidable because the batteries have to be in your carry-on but usually, you can keep some space between battery-containing items. Although having lithium-ion batteries in close proximity does not increase the risk of a fire, if there is an accident, the other batteries can catch fire and make the situation worse.
  • Avoid overcharging your batteries. These batteries do not suffer “memory effect” as badly as other types of rechargeable batteries, so they can be discharged and recharged many times nearly back to their original charge. However, they do not fare well if they are completely drained before recharging or are over-charged. Car chargers are notorious for overcharging batteries. Using any charger other than the one intended for the battery can increase the risk of damage.

At Complisafe Health and Safety Consultants we undertake many fire risk assessments in workplaces where lithium batteries maybe used, stored or charged. Speak to us about possible control measures and solutions to aid in reducing the risk of fires involving lithium batteries.

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