Westport Garbage Truck Fire Caused by Lithium Batteries

Smart Safety Tips for Devices with Lithium-Ion Batteries

The Westport Fire Department was dispatched to a report of a fire in a garbage truck on Fairview Drive on December 29, 2022.

The fire department responded with two engines and the Shift Commander. Units arrived and found the garbage truck operator had dumped the garbage from the truck and extinguished the fire with a fire extinguisher. Upon further investigation, the cause of the fire was found to be the lithium batteries for a battery-operated vacuum cleaner. The garbage truck operator heard an explosion and saw smoke from the truck's rear. The operator was able to dump the garbage to extinguish the small fire.

Improper disposal of lithium batteries can cause fires. Lithium batteries are unlikely to catch fire if handled and disposed of properly, but they can, through faults inside the battery or from external damage. And when they do catch fire, the consequences can be severe.

Smart Safety Tips for Devices with Lithium-Ion Batteries

These batteries are in cell phones, laptops, tablets, electric cars, and scooters. Lithium batteries store a lot of energy and can pose a threat if not treated properly. Unfortunately, like any product, a small number of these batteries are defective. As a result, they can overheat, catch fire, or explode.

Be Smart if using any devices powered by lithium batteries:

  • When purchasing devices, ensure the equipment has the Underwriters Laboratories Mark. The UL mark shows that the product has been safety tested.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for charging and storage.
  • Do not charge a device under your pillow, bed, or couch.
  • Always use the manufacturer's cord, and power adapter explicitly made for the device.
  • Keep batteries/devices at room temperature. Do not place it in direct sunlight.
  • Store batteries away from anything flammable.
  • If a battery overheats or you notice an odor, change in shape/color, leaking, or odd noises from a device, discontinue use immediately. If safe, move the device away from anything that can catch fire and call 9-1-1.

Lithium Battery Disposal

  • Do not put lithium-ion batteries in the trash.
  • Recycling is always the best option.
  • Take them to a battery recycling location or contact your community for disposal instructions.
  • Do not put discarded batteries in piles.

Westport residents may recycle these types of batteries at the transfer station;  Recycling Center is located at 300 Sherwood Island Connector. For more information https://www.westportct.gov/government/departments-a-z/public-works-department/recycling

Michael Kronick

Chief of Department


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