Garbage truck fire warns of battery disposal

The fire occurred Jan. 11 in the city of Kamloops vehicle from an e-bike battery pack that someone discarded

Kamloops Fire Rescue is warning the public to recycle their batteries after a garbage truck fire.

The fire occurred at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 11 in the city of Kamloops vehicle from an e-bike battery pack that someone had discarded.

According to fire officials, the truck driver noticed the back of the vehicle was on fire as he drove down Mission Flats Road and dumped the load of garbage he reached into the landfill. The driver used a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze and firefighters responded to further extinguish the contents to ensure no flare-up.

Lithium-ion batteries, commonly found in smartphones, laptops, earphones, scooters, power tools, and e-cigarettes, can catch fire if crushed, punctured, ripped, or dropped because they short out if the thin separating layer between its positive and negative parts, according to a Washington Post article.

Kamloops Fire Department investigator Kevin Cassidy said firefighters had recently seen some battery-caused fires in Kamloops, noting that the Jan. 11 fire may have resulted from the battery being crushed by the truck’s trash compactor.

Jeff Pont, the fire department’s life safety educator, said that if the batteries are damaged, they can arc if they hit metal like a garbage can.

“Once this current starts beating, it can start fires,” Pont said. “She [batteries] could be buried in a pile of rubbish, then later ignite and turn into a huge fire dangerous to all.”

While any fire is dangerous, Pont said a garbage or landfill fire can be particularly dangerous and toxic because of the unknown mix of materials that fuel them. A fire at the landfill last year resulted in a plume of thick, black smoke rolling over parts of Kamloops, prompting residents to issue a stay-inside warning.

Pont said he heard from at least one city worker that lithium batteries are often found in trash.

Pont said more battery-caused fires are being seen in homes, noting that people need to charge and store their lithium batteries properly and make sure there’s nothing flammable around them.

He also said residents need to properly recycle their batteries, adding that it’s good for the environment and everyone’s safety.

Batteries and pool chemicals thrown in the trash are the leading cause of landfill fires, according to an online factsheet from Victoria’s Capital Regional District. Most batteries also contain numerous heavy metals and toxic chemicals that can harm the environment if not disposed of properly.

The City of Kamloops does not offer curbside pickup for all types of batteries that are considered hazardous waste material and must be dropped off at a convenient location in the city.

Batteries from electric vehicles, like those that ended up in the landfill earlier this month, must be dropped off for recycling at Canadian Energy east of downtown at 1440 Battle St., which comes with a fee, according to the city of Kamloops’ website.

Rechargeable batteries and single-use dry cell batteries weighing up to five kilograms can be mailed to any Call2Recycle drop-off location in Kamloops, according to the city’s website. Car and boat batteries should be sent to locations that participate in the Canadian Battery Association’s recycling program.

For a list of these locations and where to send other waste products in Kamloops, see the city’s website.

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Mike Hunter

Mike is the owner of the local pool shop. He's been in the business for over 20 years and knows everything there is to know about pools. He's always happy to help his customers with whatever they need, whether it's advice on pool maintenance or choosing the right chemicals. He's also a bit of a pool expert, and is always happy to share his knowledge with anyone who's interested.

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