How Do Lithium Ion Batteries Catch Fire & Explode?

In April 2019, seven Arizona firefighters were hurt and one was killed from an explosion occurring within a ESS shipping container. The source of this hazardous situation was caused by an unpredictable and extremely dangerous phenomenon called “thermal runaway,” where just one malfunctioning battery can create a chain reaction into adjacent batteries and produce flammable gases and fire in the enclosed space. Here’s how cascading thermal runaway occurs:

lithium ion battery malfunction

Battery Malfunctions

The battery’s internal temperature quickly exceeds its normal operating range and begins to self-heat.

lithium battery off-gassing from thermal runaway

Off-gas Releases

Explosive gases such as hydrogen are released as a byproduct of thermal runaway.

BESS Thermal Hazard Spreads

Hazard Spreads

Nearby batteries begin to malfunction as well from the intense heat, creating a chain reaction.

thermal runaway consumes entire rack

BESS Consumed

Without early warning fire protection systems, the entire unit will be engulfed in flames.

Fike Blue

It was once thought to be impossible to stop a cascading thermal runaway event, until now with Fike Blue! Fike Blue is the first third-party tested and patented solution proven to suppress both lithium battery fires and the problem itself of thermal runaway.

Fike Blue Spotlight

Fike Blue cooled our internal module temperatures from several hundred degrees celcius to under one hundred degrees and prevented cascading thermal runaway in most of our battery cells—a true engineering breakthrough.

Director of Mechanical Engineering at a Major ESS Manufacturer

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Learn more about Fike Blue and how it suppresses thermal runaway:

Fike’s Strategy of Protecting an ESS from Lithium Battery Fires

Fike Battery Hazard Analysis - How it works 1300x540

Fike can test your battery module while undergoing thermal runaway and design a system with Fike Blue to ensure you’ll pass UL 9540A. To learn more, visit

Fike Blue - lithium ion battery protection

When thermal runaway occurs, Fike Blue is activated through the pipe network and only into the module(s) in which the overheated cells exist. Fike Blue immerses the cells and absorbs the exothermic heat, removing the thermal runaway hazard.


During the BHA process, the Fike team will work with you to identify the ideal detection method to meet your goals, which may include Li-ion Tamer, industrial gas detection, Fike Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) cables or even traditional spot and heat detection.


While these traditional systems may suppress battery fires, they do little to stop thermal runaway, and therefore re-ignition is common. However, these systems may be used in the computer or control rooms of an ESS to control any electrical fires.

How the Problem of Thermal Runaway in Energy Storage Systems has been Solved

Thermal runaway in lithium batteries results in an uncontrollable rise in temperature and propagation of extreme fire hazards within a battery energy storage system (BESS).

It was once thought to be impossible to stop a cascading thermal runaway event, until now with Fike Blue™.

Explosion Venting Systems

While using Fike Blue is the preferred solution in most ESS applications, there are various scenarios (such as ESS’s in remote locations) where Fike explosion vents provide the desired level of protection.

If thermal runaway occurs and results in a deflagration, the explosion vents will burst at a predefined burst pressure, releasing the pressure and flames in a controlled manner and thereby preventing an uncontrolled rupture of the vessel. The Fike team can help determine whether explosion venting is a viable strategy for your unique situation.

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