Business & Economy

Battery fire quelled at plant owned by electric aircraft maker Beta Technologies

The Vermont Air National Guard and the South Burlington fire departments responded to a battery storage container fire at Beta Technologies after midnight on Friday. Photo courtesy of the South Burlington Fire Department

Beta Technologies and area fire departments are investigating the cause of a lithium battery fire that set a container ablaze early Friday at the plant in South Burlington. 

No injuries were reported and the amount of gas possibly emitted is not deemed dangerous to the community, according to a Beta spokesperson.

One of several white shipping containers at the electric aircraft maker’s plant reportedly caught fire early Friday, according to the spokesperson, Jake Goldman. Local fire departments responded to douse it and Beta continued cleanup operations. 

“We had a fire reported in a single shipping container situated across the parking lot from our headquarters in South Burlington,” Goldman said in an email Monday. “The fire was quickly extinguished with no injuries and no damage to our facilities or aircraft and the situation was contained in under 30 minutes.”

The exterior of the container that caught fire. Photo courtesy of the South Burlington Fire Department

Arriving units found “an active fire in one of the containers used to store the batteries,” according to South Burlington Fire Chief Steven Locke. 

The Vermont Air National Guard, which has its own fire department and often assists surrounding communities, also responded.

According to the Guard’s report, fire officials responded to the Beta Technologies headquarters at 1150 Airport Drive at about 12:24 a.m. for an activated fire alarm. They “observed a heavy fire condition” and “determined a facility containing their batteries was fully engulfed.”

Firefighters from the South Burlington department provided additional support and the fire was doused within 30 minutes. Williston Fire provided station coverage for South Burlington during that time.

“Due to the nature of lithium battery fires extensive cooling was performed to ensure hazards were mitigated and stop thermal runaway,” the Guard stated in its report.

Responding fire units left by 3:30 a.m. and Beta employees took over to “set up an irrigation system to continually cool contents” and proceeded with cleanup procedures, according to the Guard.

No injuries, other damage or equipment failure were reported.

“We have set up our business to take the appropriate precautions not only for ourselves but the community. This includes storing batteries in isolated containers, limiting the quantity in each climate controlled container and much more,” Goldman said.

Asked if there was any spill or emissions that could have adverse effects, he said, “Based on our understanding of the incident the concentrations of HF (hydrogen fluoride) emitted would not pose a danger to the community.”

Officials have not yet determined the cause of the blaze. 

Goldman said the response plans and safety precautions Beta has in place “worked effectively” and they are “working with local authorities to investigate the root cause of the incident.”
“The safety and health of the community is paramount and we have employees who live and work in South Burlington alongside other local residents. We are always concerned about safety and actively work to take every possible precaution to minimize impacts and mitigate risks,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article reported the wrong day of the fire.

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Auditi Guha

About Auditi

Auditi is Chittenden County editor at VTDigger. Originally from Calcutta, India, she graduated from Emerson College with an MA in journalism. She has worked as an editor and reporter for several newspapers, and in various beats. Most recently, she covered race and justice at Rewire.News, and higher education at the New Bedford Standard-Times. She previously worked at several Massachusetts newsrooms. She is a mentor for young reporters through the Report For America program, founded the Boston chapter of the South Asian Journalists Association, and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.


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