Fire Chief: Lithium batteries now the fastest growing fire risk in the capital

After London fire crews were called to two e-bike fires in one day, the Deputy Commissioner Dom Ellis has warned the public to take the greatest care when charging e-bikes.

The most recent fires happened on Sunday, the first in Upper Clapton where part of a ground floor flat was damaged by fire. One man suffered from smoke inhalation and was taken to hospital. The second fire took place in a residential block of flats in Spitalfields where part of the communal hallway was damaged by fire. 

red and yellow fire truck parked near building during daytime

Dom Ellis said: ‘The number of e-bike and scooter fires that we are attending in London is incredibly concerning. So far in 2023, we have been called out to roughly one fire involving these types of vehicles every couple of days. As such, we have identified that fires involving lithium batteries are the fastest growing fire risk in the capital, which is why we launched our #ChargeSafe campaign.’

As of last week firefighters had attended 55 e-bike and 14 e-scooter fires in London this year.

Most people injured in-bikes and e-scooter fires are in their 20s and often the fires are in homes where multiple adults are living together without children. The most risky time for e-bike and e-scooter fires to take place are when charging lithium batteries, although a fire in Dalston occurred last week 20 minutes after the bike had been taken off charge. The Fire Brigade added though: ‘The bike had been purchased by its owner around one month earlier from an online marketplace, where often e-bikes can be purchased that do not meet the correct safety standards.’

The Charge Safe Campaign lists a number of ways people can keep themselves – and potentially their neighbours – safe when charging e-bike or e-scooters:

  • Don’t block your exit with charging batteries or e-bike and e-scooters. If a fire breaks out, you won’t be able to safely leave your home. Store them in a shed or garage where possible
  • Keep an eye out for warning signs that your battery might be failing and becoming a fire risk
  • Never leave your battery to charge when you are out or whilst you sleep
  • Make sure your battery and charger meet UK safety standards
  • Use the correct charger for your battery, and make sure to buy from a reputable seller
  • Let you battery cool before charging it
  • Unplug your charger once the battery has charged
  • Fit smoke alarms in the area where you charge your batteries

They also highlight some signs that would suggest a battery is a fire risk:

  • Heat: It’s normal for batteries to generate some heat when charging or in use. However if your device’s battery feels extremely hot to the touch, there’s chance it’s defective and may start a fire
  • Bulging: A battery bulging or swelling out of shape is a common sign of it failing. If your battery looks swollen, you should stop using it immediately. Similar signs include any type of lump or leaking from the device
  • Noise: Failing lithium batteries have also been reported to make hissing or cracking sounds
  • Smell: If you notice a strong or unusual smell coming from the battery, this could also be a sign of it failing 
  • Performance: A failure to fully charge or longer charge times can be a sign that your battery is failing
  • Smoke: If your battery or device is smoking, a fire has already started



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top