Study of Firefighter Line of Duty Injuries and Near Misses

Research Report Details Investigation of Lithium-Ion Battery Energy Storage System Explosion Incident Injuring Four Firefighters

July 29, 2020

Energy storage system with walls bowed out and broken fence with the door to system leaning on fence after an explosion

The UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) Four Firefighters Injured In Lithium-Ion Battery Energy Storage System Explosion - Arizona is the first report issued as part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant-funded "Study of Firefighter Line of Duty Injuries and Near Misses" project.

This report details a deflagration incident at a 2.16 MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system (ESS) facility in Surprise, AZ. It provides a detailed technical account of the explosion and fire service response, along with recommendations on how to improve codes, standards, and emergency response training to better protect first responders, maintenance personnel and nearby communities.

A first-of-its-kind research effort from UL FSRI, the goal is to capture the experience of surviving firefighters to better understand a potentially devastating situation. Four career firefighters with specialized hazardous materials (HAZMAT) training were severely injured in the explosion. They recounted their experience to help inform the report, the investigation team’s understanding of how the fire and gases behaved, and subsequent recommendations for ESS safety training.

Lithium-ion battery ESS facilities have proliferated in recent years, presenting a new challenge for the fire protection community. Sourcing the experiences of the firefighters, UL FSRI’s report recommends new standards and codes for ESS sites, research programs, and curricula. Recommendations include HAZMAT training with an emphasis on ESS safety, remotely accessible gas monitoring systems, explosion prevention protection, and full-scale testing research to understand the most effective and safest tactics for fire service response to lithium-ion battery ESS incidents.

Access the report here.


Relevant Resources:

RESOURCE # 1: UL FSRI Study of Firefighter Line of Duty Injuries and Near Misses project page