Loudoun County

Electric Bike Battery Caused Fatal Virginia Fire

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A fire that killed a man in Sterling, Virginia, Monday morning was caused by a lithium-ion battery from an electric bike, investigators said.

Loudoun County fire officials said an electric bike was charging inside Jason Urchasko’s home when the battery ignited.

“This is our first fatality involving lithium-ion battery, and that’s sad,” Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Chief Keith Johnson said.

Unfortunately, these types of fires are becoming too common, Johnson said.

Lithium-ion batteries are found in phones, e-cigarettes, laptops, scooters, bikes and cars. When they malfunction and overheat, they can have catastrophic consequences 

“Basically, it will heat up and heat up – it’s what we call thermal runaway – and that’s something that almost we can’t control in the fire service,” Johnson said.

“These batteries become energy providers,” he said. “They don't need oxygen to sustain itself. The batteries will develop their own heat.”

Between May 2021 and September 2022, lithium-ion batteries caused almost $12 million worth of damage in Loudoun County, Johnson said.

Large devices like electric bikes, scooters or hoverboards should always be charged outside.

Unusual odors, leaking, changing shape and odd noises are signs overheating.

“Most people think that when you charge a battery you put it on charge and you forget about it, and that’s absolutely the wrong thing to do,” Johnson said.

Johnson said there weren’t any working smoke detectors inside of the home, so he’s also pushing residents to remember the basics about regularly checking those and having an updated emergency plan. He reminded that fire departments like Loudoun’s will replace smoke detectors for free.

“Property can be replaced; lives can’t,” Johnson said.

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