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Deadly warning to parents over popular Christmas gift: 'Explosive force'

Electric bikes and scooters will be at the top of the wish list for a lot of Aussie kids this Christmas but firies are warning parents to be smart when shopping for gifts for under the tree.

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) has issued an urgent warning to mums and dads with the festive season well underway as crews continue to battle house fires across the state.

“What we are a bit alerted to at the moment is lithium-ion batteries with all the toys kids have,” Superintendent Adam Dewberry told Yahoo News Australia.

“We are seeing a trend in fires occurring in these and they can occur rapidly with some explosive force, be very hot and be very difficult to put out.

“And then they can actually take out the home as well.”

By November 21, FRNSW crews had responded to more than 180 lithium-ion battery fires since January 1, compared with just over 16 in 2021. Most of them had started in small, portable devices like e-bikes and e-scooters.

A burnt e-skateboard (left) and the shelf in the bedroom where the e-skateboard was on charge.
A 12-year-old girl awoke to the sound of her electric skateboard exploding while on charge overnight inside her family's Yamba home in northern NSW. Source: FRNSW

Sleeping family narrowly escape house fire

A family of five in Yamba in northern NSW are lucky to be alive after an electric skateboard in a 12-year-old girl’s bedroom burst into flames while they were sleeping last month.

“She had an electric skateboard charging in her bedroom for some reason,” Spt Dewberry said.

“Fortunately she got woken up by the popping and cracking sound of the skateboard deteriorating and catching fire and was able to get up and get five people out of the home. We are just lucky the fire didn't take hold and kill her."

The girl suffered a serious case of smoke inhalation during the blaze and was taken to hospital for treatment.

A corrosive gas cloud caused by a Lithium ion chemical reaction whilst disposing of batteries in North Wollongong. Source: FRNSW
A worker was badly burnt by a corrosive gas cloud caused by a lithium-ion chemical reaction whilst disposing of batteries in North Wollongong. Source: FRNSW

Don’t buy cheap products

Minister for Energy Services and Resilience Steph Cooke said the number of recent lithium-ion battery-related fires should serve as an alarm for Christmas shoppers.

“Most of these fires occur when lithium-ion batteries are in the process of charging and overheating, causing an explosion of flames in living rooms or garages,” she said.

"Please treat lithium-ion battery-powered products with care [and] don’t leave them on charge for extended periods of time.”

Spt Dewberry also urged shoppers to “be conscious of cheap imports”, saying, “You get what you pay for".

“Coming into Christmas, just be really careful about what you’re buying,” he said.

“I get it, everyone’s more money conscious, but just be really conscious of buying cheaper products. Buy from a reputable retailer, buy reputable brands and make sure they meet the Australian safety standard.

“Also make sure you have working smoke detectors in your home and don't leave them [batteries] on charge. Be safe, not sorry.”

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