Lessons Learned: Battery Fire

Lessons Learned: Battery Fire

Battery Fire May 2018

Photo of storage bins.
Bins of used batteries stored in the back of hazardous materials transport truck.

What Happened:

EH&S employees noticed the faint smell of smoke coming from the back of the hazardous materials truck during a recent shipment of used batteries. When they arrived at their destination and opened the back of the transport truck, they found a fire in one of the bins containing used batteries. They acted quickly and put out the fire using portable fire extinguishers. 911 was called, and the fire department responded and cleared the scene. Fortunately, the transportation truck was not damaged.

What went right?

The EH&S staff members were well trained to deal with the situation at hand, and worked quickly to extinguish the fire. They promptly called 911 to give the details of the incident.

What should be done differently?

Photo of fire remains.
Close up picture of the remains of the battery which caused the fire.

The fire was likely caused by two battery terminals making contact with one another during transportation. When battery terminals that still contain residual charge touch, it can cause sparks or a fire. As a preventative measure, certain kinds of used batteries are required to be placed in a clear plastic bag or have the positive terminal covered in non- conductive tape like: electrical tape, clear packing tape or duct tape.

For a list of batteries that require bagging or taping, please contact EH&S Waste Management at hazwaste@ucdavis.edu or (530) 754-5058

For more information, please contact:

  • Fire Prevention Services - (530) 752-1493

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