Large lithium battery fires emitted hydrogen fluoride and led to evacuations in Gothenburg and Jacksonville
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A 20,000 pound lithium-ion battery inside caught fire inside a battery factory in Jacksonville, FL on April 25th. HazMat crews worked on moving and cooling nearby batteries as to avoid an explosion.
The factory is located Cecil Commerce Center on the Westside of the city. The building didn't show signs of flames on the outside but needed to be evacuated due to the potential dangers of explosions, rapid fire development and toxic smoke.
According to a recent article on Jacksonville.com, the batteries manufactured and stored in the building are very large: the one which caught fire weighs 20,000 pounds / 9072 kilograms.
"This fire continues to burn and it's going to continue to burn for hours. It puts off some pretty dangerous gas," Jacksonville fire chief Keith Powers said, especially mentioning hydrogen fluoride. "... So we'll be remaining on scene for an extended period of time."
According to Chief Powers, the incident began with one of the 20,000-pound batteries catching fire about 7:15 a.m. local time.
Initial attempts to put the battery fire out with dry chemicals and special fire extinguishers were unsuccessful. Hazmat units worked to move the other nearby batteries and keep them cooled to not exacerbate the situation while the fire steadily burned the affected battery.
Large lithium-Ion container fire in Sweden only a day later
On April 26, a large amount of lithium batteries stored in a shipping container created a similar situation in an industrial park near Gothenburg, Sweden.
A similar amount of lithium-ion, 9,000 kilograms / 20,000 pounds, was involved in the container fire, although it was a number of smaller units on fire, not one large battery.
The fire services responded with 10 units, some of them counting on needing to return to watch and cool the container for several days after initial extinguishing efforts.
One person had to be treated at hospital for breathing problems and possible lung damage.
"There is a lot of energy stored in these batteries. It could require 72 hours of cooling, or it could go faster", Gothenburg fire officer Johan Karlsson said to Göteborgsposten from the emergency response center of Greater Gothenburg.
The responding fire services units decide to move the container in order to avoid getting contaminated water runoff into the city water system.
Evacuations in nearby residences and business were carried out due to toxic smoke and the risk of potential explosions in the batteries on fire.
An eye witness tells the local newspaper that she felt the building shake just before she saw evacuations taking place across the street from her location.
Photo Credit: A photo by one of the readers of daily local newspaper Göteborgsposten capturing the fire in the 9000 kilo lithium-Ion container.