As Kiwis bring more and more battery powered devices and gadgets into their homes – everything from mobile phones to drones, tablets and e-scooters – the risk from fires is also increasing exponentially.
This is the warning issued by one of the country’s biggest insurance companies, which says it is getting at least one home insurance claim a month for fire damage caused by lithium-ion batteries and their charging systems.
According to insurer AMI, claims data shows these fires are not only growing in frequency, but are more likely to cause severe damage compared to other types of blazes. In many instances, lithium-ion fires are resulting in the loss of an entire home.
“It’s devastating to see cases where battery powered devices have led to fires that can have terrible consequences for customers,” AMI Executive General Manager Claims, Dean MacGregor, said.
Raising awareness of this emerging trend
“By raising awareness of this emerging trend, we want to remind Kiwis why it is so important to treat lithium-ion battery equipment with extra care, to protect themselves and their families from the increased fire risk.”
MacGregor says the gadgets causing these fires are becoming increasingly diverse.
“Some of the recent claims we’ve received include a model helicopter that caught fire while on charge, an e-tool left to charge in a garage overnight which ignited and destroyed an entire home, and multiple cases of phones and laptops catching fire after being left to charge on a bed.
“Of particular concern are the number of cases where the fire was not noticed until it was well established – either because it started in the garage and was too far away to trigger a smoke alarm, or simply because fires from lithium-ion batteries are particularly intense and grow very fast.”
The New Zealand experience ties in with reports of an increasing number of fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in Australia.
One fire a week reported in Queensland
Last year, an ABC News report quoted a Queensland fire inspector as saying rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in laptops, mobile phones, power drills and toys were causing fires — some of them serious — at least once a week across the state.
In one incident at Dimbulah, west of Cairns, investigators found a fire ripped through a single-storey building after ‘a large bank’ of lithium-ion batteries purchased from overseas were used as part of a solar system upgrade.
In another, a Toowoomba garage was damaged after two lithium-ion batteries were left on charge for ‘no longer than two hours’ on top of a cupboard.
And on the Sunshine Coast, a home was evacuated after a lithium-ion battery exploded, scorching carpeting and filling the home with toxic smoke.