Lithium Ion Batteries and House Fires

Whenever a fire breaks out in a home, investigators work tirelessly to identify the source of the fire in order to file insurance reports and help the family recover some financial compensation for the losses sustained in the fire. Many homes are filled with electronic devices that are powered by lithium ion batteries. These batteries are commonly the source of house fires, but it can be difficult to determine if the battery was the source of the fire or if the damage the battery sustained was incidental to its proximity to another fire-causing source.

Here are three pieces of information that a fire investigator will look for when trying to determine if a lithium ion battery failure is the root cause of a house fire.

1. Physical evidence of battery failure.

The first thing that a fire investigator will look for when trying to determine if a lithium ion battery is responsible for igniting a house fire is physical evidence that the battery failed.

This physical evidence can come in the form of corrosion on the surface of the battery, cracks or pitting on the surface of the battery, or other signs of structural failure. If there are signs of physical failure, then the battery is likely the source of the house fire.

2. The battery's proximity to the ignition point.

Fire investigators can use the burn pattern left behind by the flames of a house fire to determine where the fire began. Once the ignition point has successfully been located, the investigator can use this information to determine how close the lithium ion battery was located to the ignition point.

If the battery was at the epicenter of the fire, there is a good chance it sparked the flames that caused the fire. If the battery is located some distance from the ignition point, then the battery's damage was likely caused by the fire and not the source of the flames.

3. The presence of alternative sources of ignition.

In order to successfully determine if a lithium ion battery caused a house fire, a fire investigator must use the process of elimination. Any other potential sources of ignition must be identified and ruled out before saying the battery was to blame.

This process of elimination takes time and attention to detail, but it allows an investigator to feel certain that a lithium ion battery started a house fire.

Determining if a lithium ion battery ignited a house fire can be an arduous and time-consuming task, but fire investigators like those at Fire Science Investigations are becoming increasingly more efficient at identifying fires caused by lithium ion batteries as these batteries become more commonplace in homes across the country.

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