Trash Compactor Fire a Result of Discarded Lithium Ion Batteries
A fire found in a trash compactor is the result of improperly discarded lithium ion batteries.
Firefighters were dispatched to a facility on the east side for a 30 cubic-yard trash compactor container showing signs of fire. Engine Co. 5 arrived to find smoke coming from the front end of the compactor and workers putting water on it with a garden hose. One employee advised firefighters, “There should only be cardboard and pallets inside” the compactor.
Engine 5 deployed a fire attack line and positioned it between the compactor and the rest of the refuse container to prevent the fire from spreading from the compactor into the container.
Anticipating the need for more water than what their 500-gallon tank provides, and noting a great distance to the nearest hydrant, Engine Co. 5 requested assistance from Engine Co. 8 to relay additional water to them. Engine 8 also applied a second water source to the contents of the compactor by inserting a hose nozzle through an opening on the side of the compactor. A tow truck responded to the scene to pull the container away from the compactor.
After clearing away contents from the compactor, firefighters found plastic grocery bags full of trash, including lithium ion batteries, which had been discarded. Although some of the batteries were covered with tape, some were not.
The fire was contained to the compactor and did not spread into the container. There was no damage to the container or compactor, and no injuries were reported.
Safety Reminders: The best way to get rid of old lithium ion batteries is to take them to a trusted e-recycling vendor for proper disposal. Lithium ion batteries can also be taken to City of Madison drop-off sites for safe disposal and recycling.
According to the City of Madison Streets Division, lithium ion batteries should be kept separate from other battery types. Cover their contact points with clear tape (you must use clear tape). Packing tape is best. Place the taped batteries into the appropriate container at a City drop-off site near you.
More information is also available from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.