Battery fire damages Alide Hire depot
4 January 2023
Staff at Alide Hire Services responded rapidly following a fire that seriously damaged the award-winning company’s flagship depot in Bristol on Boxing Day, caused by a lithium-ion power tool battery igniting. No one was hurt in the blaze.
Managing director Brett Thompson told me that approximately 20 per cent of the fleet at the Days Road depot has been destroyed or damaged beyond repair. The integrity of the building’s roof will also need to be assessed and he estimates that the premises could be out of action for most of 2023.
Fortunately, Alide still has a lease on its previous Bristol city centre location in Little George Street from where it relocated almost exactly two years ago. Resourceful staff worked hard over the Christmas holidays to make the old site fully operational again.
Recalling the Boxing Day fire, Brett said: “A passer-by saw smoke and called the fire brigade who arrived quickly and cut through the depot doors, activating the intruder alarm and triggering an alert. We have the whole episode captured on our CCTV.
“Some equipment has been burnt to a crisp and items on our mezzanine floor such as air conditioners and work lights with plastic casings just melted.”
Brett showed me some of the CCTV footage and the speed at which the fire suddenly starts and spreads along the line of stored equipment is startling.
Alide has now posted some of the footage on LinkedIn.
“We know it was caused by a lithium-ion battery. The fire chief and the loss adjuster’s expert said it was caused by a battery and thermal runaway,” said Brett.
Thermal runaway is a self-feeding situation where a faulty cell overheats and creates a domino effect. The increased temperature releases more energy which, in turn, creates more heat in other cells and spreads the fire exponentially.
Since a number of cordless tools were among the items destroyed, it is impossible to say which battery amongst them actually caused the fire.
The cordless machines were simply being stored as normal in a row on a shelf, ready for hire. No battery was on charge at the time.
It should be kept in mind that such incidents are thankfully very rare.
“Our insurance broker said this was a one in a million occurrence. There are many millions of lithium-ion batteries in use and because of the small number of incidents it isn’t seen as a major problem. But it’s certainly become our problem today,” said Brett, who added that you can’t predict if a battery is likely to fail with such serious consequences.
● The London Fire Brigade offers some safety advice on cordless equipment, albeit in a chiefly domestic environment, on its website.
And I plan to follow up this post with other related information and advice in the near future.
Picture shows the sign at Alide’s Bristol depot counter informing customers about the new temporary location.