An e-scooter parked in Silver Spring. Credit: Steve Bohnel

County fire department officials are warning owners of electric bikes and scooters of the possible fire hazard related to the charging of the personal mobility devices.

A fire that broke out Friday on the 14th floor of a high-rise apartment building in downtown Silver Spring was found to be caused by an e-scooter battery that malfunctioned while charging, according to Fire Battalion Chief James Carpenter.

Three people were injured in the fire at the Twin Towers building in the 1100 block of Fidler Lane, according to authorities. Carpenter wrote on Twitter that the owner of the e-scooter suffered burns while trying to remove the burning scooter from his apartment.

After the fire, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service conducted a three-day safety blitz starting Oct. 30 that focused on electric bike and scooter safety, according to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer.

According to the MCFRS’s electric bike and scooter safety guide, lithium-ion batteries that are commonly used to power e-bikes and e-scooters can often overheat, catch fire, or explode. They can also produce toxic gases and burn at extremely high temperatures.

Piringer noted on Twitter that e-bike batteries that are charging should not be left unattended.

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Also, residents planning to charge their e-bikes in a garage should make sure to set a timer to remind themselves to unplug the devices. If they plan on leaving the house, they should unplug the devices and finish charging the battery upon returning home, Piringer wrote on Twitter.

The MCFRS safety guide lists the following advice regarding electric bikes and scooters:

  • Purchase and use only “batteries and charging equipment that are listed by a nationally recognized testing lab and labeled accordingly,” and follow instructions provided by the manufacturers.
  • Use the same charger and battery that comes with the device.
  • Charge one device and battery at a time.
  • Keep batteries at room temperature whenever possible.
  • Store electric bikes and scooters and their batteries away from exit doors and anything that could become hot or catch fire.
  • Recycle lithium-ion batteries instead of throwing them in the trash.
  • When repairs are required, take the device to a professional.
  • Don’t keep charging the battery once it is fully charged.
  • Don’t charge batteries and devices at temperatures below 32°F (0°C) or above 105°F (40°C).
  • Don’t store batteries in hot places, such as in direct sunlight, or in hot vehicles.
  • Make sure batteries are kept away from children and any liquids.
  • If a fire does occur, leave the premises immediately and call 911. Don’t try to fight the fire.

Fire officials also recommend that electric bike and scooter users stop using a device if there is a problem with the battery, including if it is producing an unusual odor or too much heat, showing a change in color or shape, or is leaking or smoking or not keeping a charge.

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Apps Bichu reports on growth and justice. She can be reached at apps.bichu@bethesdamagazine.com