Firefighters rush to scene of 2nd reported lithium-ion battery fire in Warwick as first fire smolders

Sources tell News 12 the fire may have been caused by lightning or a power surge during Monday's storm.

Blaise Gomez

Jun 29, 2023, 4:16 PM

Updated 328 days ago

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News 12 was back in Warwick Thursday afternoon as fire crews rushed to another report of a lithium-ion battery fire at a new company with two locations in the town and village. 
Rescuers responded to the Convergent Energy and Power location on Church Street and evacuated the commercial building next to it. A fire at the company’s other location on school grounds, on County Route 1, is starting to burn out after three days.
Residents in town reported a burning glue-like smell on Wednesday, which is now gone as the fire at the school complex smolders. Authorities said they had to let it burn out on its own because water would make it worse. Fire officials said Thursday that the smell was likely the odor of the batteries' plastic covers burning.
News 12 found multiple research reports online that lithium-ion batteries emit toxic fluoride when they catch fire, but authorities say air quality readings are normal. “They said that after 9/11 too,” said O'Rourke. 
People in town are skeptical and so far, the Warwick school district is remaining tight-lipped about when the plans were approved and whether the public was notified. 
Officials say public meetings were held for the location in the village. 
Problems at both locations started during Monday night's storm in near-simultaneous incidents, according to officials, that sparked the first fire near three schools, the district bus garage and athletic fields. 
The company uses lithium-ion batteries to supply energy to Orange and Rockland’s power grid and rents the property in town from the school district.  
The batteries are inside white storage containers and are also right near what emergency management officials say is a 1,000-gallon propane tank and fuel pumps for the district bus garage. 
“I had no idea it was there. I had no idea and it’s quite concerning,” said Susan O'Rourke. 
Residents say they didn’t know about either newly opened facility.
The school district closed its buildings all week and canceled scheduled outdoor activities on school grounds because of the fire while authorities monitored the air quality.  
“We don’t know what’s going on right now," said Sarah Colon. 
Orange County Fire Coordinator Vini Tankasali said that local emergency services were on scene at the Church Street storage site for the reported fire.
Tankasali says it was quickly determined that there was no fire but there were emitting fumes from the initial incident earlier in the week. 
He added that Convergent and Powin are continuing to monitor the site and remediation plans are in progress.
A representative for Convergent did not return News 12's calls on Thursday.


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