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Lithium-ion battery fire threatens MTD facility in Santa Barbara

Two Metropolitan Transit District employees received medical attention after being exposed to smoke and dry chemical powder from a bank of lithium-ion batteries that caught on fire Tuesday morning.

Both employees were seen by paramedics on scene and declined further treatment. However, their quick actions may have very well prevented the fire from reaching its full potential.

The incident occurred at 9:30 a.m. MTD employees noticed smoke coming from the batteries, and attempted to put the fire out using dry chemical extinguishers and a Class D Metal extinguisher.

Santa Barbara City firefighters and the Hazardous Material Unit were dispatched to the scene to assist with the highly reactive and flammable material. The fire was eventually put out by two Class D Metal fire extinguisher. These extinguishers were designed specifically to suppress flammable metal fires.

Fire investigators say the fire appears to have been caused by a small amount of water leaking through the metal roof and onto the batteries, which may have caused an external short between the battery terminals.

The Santa Barbara City Fire Department says that anyone who experiences a fire related to lithium-ion battery in a consumer product, may use water to cool the device, however, just applying water may not completely extinguish the fire but it can prevent build-up of heat. If you’re indoors, you should move the device outdoors only if it’s safe to do so. Always ask someone to call 911 before attempting to control the situation yourself.

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