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  • Writer's pictureTim Spears

Residential Sprinklers in Combatting E-Mobility Device Fires

A recent incident in Fresno, California, where a residential fire sparked by an electric bike battery was successfully contained by a sprinkler system, underscores the continued concerns over lithium ion battery fires. In this particular case, the homeowner was alerted to the fire by the sound of the sprinkler system, which managed to keep the fire in check until firefighters arrived, preventing further damage and potential injury​​ (Meza, 2024).

Why Lithium Ion Batteries Demand Attention

Lithium ion batteries, commonly found in e-mobility devices such as electric bikes and scooters, pose significant fire safety challenges. If these batteries undergo thermal runaway—a condition where the battery overheats and leads to a chemical reaction—they can catch fire or even explode. This can turn an ordinary room into a flashover in under a minute, presenting dire risks to both property and life​​.

How Residential Sprinklers Can Make a Difference

The Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) has examined the effectiveness of residential sprinkler systems in mitigating fires caused by e-mobility devices. Their findings show that residential sprinklers, when designed to NFPA 13D standards, can significantly inhibit fire growth, preventing flame spread to secondary items and stopping flashover.

Experiment Insights (FSRI, 2023):

  1. Location Variability: Experiments conducted in different room setups (bedrooms and living rooms) with intentionally overcharged batteries to induce thermal runaway.

  2. Sprinkler Activation: In each scenario, the sprinklers activated at temperatures above 155ºF, discharging 13-18 gallons of water per minute.

  3. Damage Control: While the rooms of origin suffered damage, the sprinklers successfully prevented fire spread and flashover, underscoring their critical role in fire safety​​.

Have you integrated residential sprinklers in your safety protocols? How do you manage the risks associated with lithium ion batteries in your community? Share your experiences and strategies in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are residential sprinklers effective against all types of fires?

A: While not all-encompassing, residential sprinklers are particularly effective in slowing the spread of fires involving flammable materials like those found in lithium ion batteries, giving residents and firefighters valuable response time​​.

Q: What preventive measures can be taken to avoid lithium ion battery fires?

A: Ensuring devices are charged using the correct equipment, avoiding overcharging, and storing in cool, dry places away from flammable materials are key steps to mitigate risk.

The integration of effective fire suppression tools such as residential sprinklers within homes represents a significant stride towards community risk reduction. It's not just about preventing property damage; it's fundamentally about saving lives and enhancing community resilience against fires, particularly those spurred by increasingly common lithium ion batteries.



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