Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Toronto fire chief warns of lithium ion batteries’ risks after e bike fire on subway

By Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press   

Headlines News ebike fire lithium ion battery

Jan. 3, 2024, Toronto – Fires sparked by lithium-ion batteries are increasing in Toronto and pose a “significant risk,” the city’s fire chief said after a blaze aboard a subway train demonstrated how quickly flames sparked by a faulty battery can spread.

Videos posted on social media showed flames raging inside a Toronto subway train, with smoke billowing from a train car, on New Year’s Eve.

Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said that fire was caused by the failure of a lithium-ion battery powering an e-bike and was put out by fire crews on Sunday afternoon.

“The fires that result from the failures of lithium-ion batteries represent a significant risk,” Pegg said.


“When lithium-ion batteries fail and ignite, the response is an intense, rapidly developing fire that poses an immediate risk to anyone in the area.”

Pegg said one person was hurt and treated for non-life-threatening injuries by paramedics after the Sunday fire on the subway train.

There has been an increase in faulty lithium-ion batteries causing fires in Toronto, Pegg said.

There were 55 fires in the city last year that resulted from the failure of lithium-ion batteries, up from 29 such fires in 2022, he said.

“That is a significant number of fires. That has our attention,” Pegg said.

“But, that has to be put in context against more than 1,600 fires that happened in our city over the course of last year.”

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries used in electric cars, e-bikes, laptop computers and cellphones, as well as other electronics.

Pegg said the fires that involve lithium-ion batteries are difficult to investigate because the fire often completely destroys the battery.

He said modifying a lithium-ion battery or its charger, operating the electric device in an unsafe manner and using an unapproved or uncertified battery are among the things that can cause fires.

Last October, two people were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation after an electric bike fire at a residential building in Toronto. Earlier in the same month, fire crews responded to a Toronto Community Housing building for a fire involving an e-bike.

Last month in New York City, one person was killed and six others were injured when a fire blamed on an e-bike battery tore through an apartment. That fire happened three weeks after a fire blamed on a lithium ion battery killed three members of a family in the city.

–With files from the Associated Press

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