'It smells like glue.' Lithium-ion battery fire at energy storage facility in Warwick burns for second day
Neighbors describe the odor of Warwick's lithium-ion battery fire like the smell of burning glue.
"You can smell it smoking like crazy," said one resident. "Is it healthy?"
News 12's Blaise Gomez went down to the site at Convergent Energy and Power on County Route 1 Wednesday afternoon but couldn't stay long because of how strong the smell was.
Hazmat crews and police were on the scene while the fire at the energy storage facility continued to burn for a second day.
"In this case, the safest thing to do for everyone involved is to allow it to burn itself out," said Orange County Fire Coordinator Vini Tankasali.
Despite the strong smell, county authorities say as of Wednesday there’s no cause for concern and that air quality is being monitored by hazmat crews and the Health Department.
“Measurements are all within normal parameters," said Warwick Police Chief John Radar. "The next couple of days will be used by Convergent and Powin to gather additional information.”
Powin is the manufacturer of the lithium-ion batteries stored by Convergent inside several storage containers housed on Warwick school grounds. The company rents the property from the school district, according to town officials.
The batteries are used to store energy for Orange and Rockland Utilities. Officials say they caught fire during the storm on Monday night.
News 12 found research online published by the National Library of Medicine and other research groups that lithium-ion batteries emit toxic fluoride gas emissions when they catch fire. Efforts to contact the manufacturer to see if they did any similar studies on their batteries and the results if they catch fire have been unsuccessful.
Officials say the fire is one of two back-to-back incidents at the Convergent site on County Route 1 and nearby in the Village of Warwick on Church Street.
Authorities wouldn’t say what the second incident was, but a source tells News 12 that both may have been caused by lightning or a power surge during the storm.
Convergent issued a statement online: "Suppression units within the affected battery containers at both sites were activated. We have deployed our safety protocol and are actively monitoring the sites. The local fire department, team members, and battery storage system manufacturer Powin have representatives on-site actively managing the situation and coordinating the response. Our primary focus right now is working with the response team to ensure the safety of the individuals on-site and within the surrounding community. Convergent is actively monitoring the situation and will provide updates as the situation evolves."
County officials advise people within a quarter-mile radius to stay indoors when possible and keep windows closed until further notice as a precaution.
“I’m 66 years old and had two strokes. I don’t need to breathe this," said one neighbor.
Another neighbor, Kris Klim, said she had "no idea" the facility was down the road.
Officials say the fire is expected to burn until at least Wednesday night and possibly longer.