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Prompt Response Mitigates Fire Incident at HWMA Hazardous Waste Facility

[Eureka, California, May 30, 2024] - On May 1st, at approximately 3 a.m., a fire broke out at the Humboldt Waste Management Authority (HWMA) universal waste storage facility located on West Hawthorne Street in Eureka.

While investigations are ongoing, preliminary findings suggest that the fire's ignition source may be attributable to a lithium battery, which was originally removed from either a passenger vehicle or a forklift. 

Swift emergency response measures, coupled with the activation of the facility's in-house fire suppression system, played a pivotal role in containing the fire and limiting damage to the facility and surrounding environment.

“Humboldt Bay Fire was incredibly quick to respond, and a special thank you goes out to Recology - mainly their morning drivers - for notifying response teams,” remarked Eric Keller-Heckman, Executive Director of HWMA, during a recent board meeting.

The incident underscores the critical importance of proper hazardous waste disposal procedures, particularly for items like lithium batteries, which can pose significant fire hazards if not handled and disposed of appropriately.

HWMA remains committed to implementing enhanced safety protocols and collaborating with stakeholders to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Humboldt Waste Management Authority encourages residents and businesses to take C.H.A.R.G.E of battery safety:

  1. Confirm regulations. By United States law, waste disposal determinations are ultimately the responsibility of the generator.  Alongside federal laws in place, some states have their own battery recycling regulations. These must be followed over and above federal regulations. As an example, consumers in California are required to recycle all single-use batteries. Do not remove manufacturer labels as they provide valuable information to guide recycling and disposal. Reach out to your local waste management authority or environmental protection agency for clarification of regulations.
  2. Handle with care. Many batteries contain heavy metals which can contaminate streams, rivers and the surrounding land.  They can also cause fires. Because of this potential environmental impact, batteries should not be disposed of in the trash or in your recycling bins.
  3. Always stay alert. Stop using lithium-ion batteries if you notice an odor, change in color, too much heat, change in shape, leaking or odd noises. When transporting lithium batteries for recycling, take precautions to prevent damage or short-circuiting, such as insulating terminals and avoiding excessive heat or pressure.
  4. Recycle properly. Utilize authorized battery recycling programs or collection points to ensure safe and environmentally responsible disposal. HWMA’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility accepts lead-acid auto batteries and up to 125 pounds of small household batteries. Many manufacturers also offer programs to recover batteries. 
  5. Get out quickly. The first step following any lithium-ion battery fire is to evacuate the immediate area. The next step is to alert the local fire department. Lithium-ion battery fires can be unpredictable and escalate rapidly. Prioritizing safety is essential during a lithium-ion battery fire as they release flammable materials and toxic vapors that can lead to an explosion. This could involve projectiles burning upwards of 1,000°F (538°C) that threaten the welfare of both civilians and first responders if left to burn.
  6. Educate others. Avoid the Spark and educate yourself and others about the hazards of improper lithium battery disposal. Promote responsible handling practices within your community. The website www.avoidthespark.comoffers additional resources.

By taking proactive measures to dispose of lithium batteries properly, individuals can contribute to fire prevention efforts and promote a safer environment for all.

For more information on battery disposal guidelines and resources, please visit or contact (707) 268-8680.


2024-05-Li BatteryHandling.pdf