ReelChicago has the story of Fletcher Chicago rental completely replacing their lithium-ion batteries after an apparently unprovoked lithium-ion “thermal runaway” fire at Essanay Studio & Lighting, this past Wednesday, January 9th.
“The flames from the battery shot out 10 feet and hit the chairs. The battery sat on a concrete floor and burned out during the night.”
The ReelChicago article goes on to say that this was not the first time a powerful production battery has shot flames:
Kubacki noted the exact same thing happened on a camera truck during the filming of “Stranger than Fiction” two years ago, when the battery was left on charge overnight.
“In that case however, I heard it cost $100,000 damage to the truck,” he said.
These are not little flames.
This is not something you can throw a little water on.
Please watch this video:
I don’t work for Valence Technologies, nor have any connection with them.
But in their video, they show a lithium-ion battery- based on the same chemical design as the cells we use- in a “thermal runaway” fire at over 700 degrees Celsius. That’s about 1300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fletcher president Archie Fletcher took immediate responsibility by taking the Li-On Liberty battery out of service “to insure the safety of all parties involved in film shoots,” he said.
Replacing the Li-Ons will be $40,000 worth of … Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries that Fletcher is flying in… The first batch is expected Friday.
So what the hell do you do with all your big-ass lithium ion batteries in your office- or worse, in your home office, short of putting your charging station inside your oven (which, considering the fire hazzard shown above, is not really a bad alternative).
1) Put a smoke detector close to your charging station.
If you have metal shelves, put it on the bottom of the next shelf up.
If you use wood shelves, replace your shelves. Now.
Rather than metal, which heats up and will eventually conduct that heat to something else, concrete or stone may be a viable alternative.
Put the charging station on a cement floor if you have one.
2) Don’t charge batteries when no one is around to hear an alarm.
3) Prepare an appropriate extinguishing system.
Halon doesn’t work.
In case of fire where lithium ion batteries are present, flood the area with water. If any batteries are burning, water may not extinguish them, but will cool the adjacent batteries and control the spread of fire.
CO2, dry chemical, and foam extinguishers are preferred for small fires, but also may not extinguish burning lithium ion batteries. Burning batteries will burn themselves out.
Virtually all fires involving lithium ion batteries can be controlled with water. When water is used, however, hydrogen gas may be evolved which can form an explosive mixture with air.
LITH-X (powdered graphite) or copper powder fire extinguishers, sand, dry ground dolomite or soda ash may also be used. These materials act as smothering agents.
Fire fighters should wear self-contained breathing apparatus. Burning lithium ion batteries can produce toxic fumes including HF, oxides of carbon, aluminum, lithium, copper, and cobalt.
Volatile phosphorus pentafluoride may form at a temperature above 230° F
Fires involving lithium batteries can be controlled with water. When water is used, however, hydrogen gas may evolve. In a confined space, hydrogen gas can form an explosive mixture. In this situation, smothering agents are recommended to extinguish the fire…
As for any fire, evacuate the area and fight the fire from a safe distance. Wear a pressure-demand, self-contained breathing apparatus and full protective gear. Fight fire from a protected location or a safe distance.
Since many of us are unlikely to have such breathing apparatus at the ready, a strong ventilation system that rapidly pulls the nasty gases outside would probably be advisable. i.e. a charging station on your musty basement is a bad idea if you use big lithium-ion batteries.
Both the sources recommend smothering the fire.
Buckets of Dirt. Sand. Talc. Something that can withstand heat, and robs the lithium-ion cells of air. I bet cold, liquidy mud would be good to, but it’s hard to keep mud just the right shade of liquidy, so whatever you choose— please read up on alternatives, and suggestions available throughout the web.
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Be responsible for your own actions. I am not a fire expert nor a chemical or physics expert. I am a concerned, fellow videographer.
Do your own research and take your own action.