Utility and Misc

Lithium-ion battery suspected as cause of blaze at Urbana recycler

Debra Pressey

URBANA — A Thanksgiving night fire at Mack’s Twin City Recycling may have been sparked by a lithium-ion battery, according Corey Mathis, co-operator of the Urbana business.

There was a box of batteries on a storage shelf where the fire appeared to originate, and an investigator from the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office told him he was fairly sure a lithium-ion battery was the culprit by the way the fire appeared on video, Mathis said.

“There was a puff of smoke that shot out sideways,” he said. “Immediately after that, there were a lot of sparks and flames.”

J.C. Fultz, public information officer at the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office, said the damage was so severe, the cause of the fire remains undetermined.

Lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly used in mobile devices, can catch fire if they’re damaged or if the battery terminals are short-circuited, according to a Federal Aviation Administration fact sheet about including this type of battery in luggage.

Mathis said Tuesday he didn’t yet have an estimate for the damage caused by the fire, because an investigator from the business’ insurer still needs to conduct an inspection.

Co-owner of fire-ravaged recycling center in Urbana: “It’s hard to believe we’ve had three fires in a matter of six years.”

The fire was contained to one of three buildings at Mack’s, 2802 N. Lincoln Ave., U. The business was open the Friday after the fire, and has largely continued as usual, Mathis said.

Mack’s can’t currently accept cardboard from the public because both balers were in the building where the fire occurred and were destroyed, he said.

The main building and another under construction were unaffected by the fire, he said. Cardboard will be accepted again at a later date and handled in the new building, Mathis said.

He also said Mack’s will no longer accept any type of batteries other than lead-acid batteries.

The fire was discovered after a Champaign County sheriff’s deputy was dispatched at 6:18 p.m. on Thanksgiving to check out a motion alarm activation.

This was the third fire for Mack’s in six years, with previous ones happening in 2013 and 2016.

Source: The News Gazette

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