#TBT From the NFPA Archives: 1919 Fire Hazard of Dry Cell Batteries

Blog Post created by jrodowicz Employee on May 9, 2019

One hundred years ago, a previously held belief that a dry-cell battery was practically non-hazardous and considered suitable for installing in dusty locations was disproved. During experimental work using six regular commercial type dry-cell batteries connected to each other in series, the batteries were inadvertently short-circuited and a peculiar fire hazard was discovered

Burning insulation on wiring of dry batteries after batteries were short-circuited.



From The NFPA Quarterly v.13, no.2, 1919:

There are three distinct phase of fire hazard introduced by dry-cell batteries of this type, any one of which might result in fire:

  • Are developed between carbon and wire or hot wire or molten copper igniting dust, inflammable vapors or combustible material;
  • Ignition of insulation;
  • Ignition of vapor due to volatilization of sealing compound by arc or heated wire.

The following is suggested:

  • Immediate inspection of all dry battery installations to make sure that all connections are in good condition and tightly secured;
  • Immediately remove such installations from locations where inflammable dust or vapors are or may be present;
  • Where facilities are available, top of carbon electrode might be covered with compound used for sealing batteries, leaving only copper connection or binding post exposed;
  • Enclosures containing dry cells of this type should be of metal, or have interior protected with asbestos.

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.

 The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
 Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.