By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – Lithium-ion batteries, a popular choice in many portable devices for their long-lasting charge, are also a potential fire risk when the battery contents are released and explode. This can happen when the batteries are damaged, mishandled or improperly disposed of.

“I’m unaware of any fires in the Big Sky area being caused by lithium batteries, but I have dealt with them previously,” said Big Sky Fire Department Chief William Farhat. “The fires are caused when the lithium metal within the battery is exposed to air, as lithium naturally ignites when exposed to oxygen. This occurs when the case is bent or broken, which can occur in smaller, thin or flexible devices.

“Lithium batteries can be used safely as long as the battery is not abused, and used as designed,” he added. “As with all devices, appropriate caution should be used.”

Due to the fire risk these batteries present, it’s important to follow several safety measures when using devices with lithium-ion batteries.

Safety guidelines for lithium and lithium-ion batteries:

– Don’t charge cellphones or laptops on couches, beds or other flammable furniture.
– Don’t leave phones or laptops in cars where they can overheat.
– Don’t overcharge devices.
– Don’t dispose of these batteries or devices in the trash. It can cause fires in your garbage can, in garbage trucks, or at landfills.

Lithium and lithium-ion batteries can be recycled, independent from regular trash, by taking them to the Gallatin Solid Waste Management District at the Logan Landfill and the Bozeman Convenience Site at 2132 Story Mill Rd. Prior to disposal, Gallatin Solid Waste asks that you place tape over both ends of all batteries.

Batteries turned in for recycling will be broken down and the remaining material will be reused for remanufacture.