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Fire Breaks Out in French Warehouse Full of Batteries

A fire broke out Saturday in a warehouse storing lithium-ion batteries in southern France, near Toulouse.

Per media reports, the warehouse, property of local recycling company Société Nouvelle d’Affinage des Métaux contained 900 tons of batteries. Reuters quoted the local police authorities as saying that, as of Sunday night, the fire was under control. Also, Reuters quoted Le Monde as reporting that 70 firefighters were battling the blaze.

The publication also quoted the local prefecture as saying the fire was burning slowly and would likely continue burning for several hours. There have been no warnings about any release of hazardous chemicals, media reports noted. A local official said on French TV that the fire posed no danger to local residents.

Lithium-ion batteries are a serious fire hazard that has recently been garnering growing attention as sales of EVs increase and with them, EV fires. GM even recalled thousands of its Chevy Bolt EVs after it discovered an increased flammability risk in the battery.

There have even been reports of fire incidents on ships carrying EVs, which prompted a reaction from some shippers that introduced tighter safety rules for transporting electric vehicles. One Norwegian shipping company outright banned EVs from its vessels because of the battery fire risk.

The problem with lithium-ion battery fires is that they are more difficult to put out and there is no guarantee they will not restart due to what experts call thermal runaway, which is essentially a vicious cycle of overheating and igniting.

"Even when it looks like pretty much a plastic tank on the ground, those batteries are made up of thousands of these small battery cells, and all it takes is one of them to reignite the fire," Brian O’Connor, technical service engineer with the U.S. National Fire Protection Association, told Business Insider recently.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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