Lithium battery sparks fire on a plane headed for Florida: Here's how to protect yourself

A Spirit Airlines flight headed for Orlando had to make an emergency stop in Jacksonville because of a fire on board. Fire Rescue officials say it was lithium-Ion batteries that started the flames. 

Passengers sent FOX 35 videos of smoke pouring out of an overhead bin while the flight was still in the air. A retired New York City firefighter jumped in to help put out the flames. 

"I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to be a hero or anything like I said it’s just instinct," said Rocco Chierichella. "We are on a plane, I don’t know if there is water coming."

The Spirit flight from Dallas headed for Orlando emergency landed in Jacksonville. Fire rescue officials say the fire started because of a lithium battery charger that was being used in the overhead bin. 

"If you’re going to board a plane, have all of your electronics charged," said Capt. Eric Prosswimmer of Jacksonville Fire Rescue. "If you have to charge them, make sure that you can see what’s going on. Those battery packs generate quite a bit of heat." 

Capt. Prosswimmer says lithium-Ion batteries aren’t very regulated. He says cheap lithium batteries tend to be more dangerous and more likely to overheat and ignite. He says to purchase ones with good ratings that are held to higher standards. 

"The biggest thing is if they’re damaged. If they’re dented. If they’re swollen. If they’re emitting any kind of jelly they need to be thrown out. They need to be gotten rid of a not used," said Prosswimmer. 

The crew and passengers were able to put out the fire by submerging the batteries in water. Prosswimmer says the batteries should stay submerged for up to 24 hours because they could reignite even after being put out.  

"When [a device] is fully charged, disconnect them. You don’t want to keep that energy flowing," said Prosswimmer. 

The smoke from lithium battery fires can also be toxic. Jacksonville Fire Rescue had to transport 10 people to the hospital because of it. 

Chierichella also had to get bandaged up after getting burned by the flames. 

"It’s blistering, it’s a bunch of blisters on this finger. It will be fine. That we can recover from. I got to say the people on this flight were phenomenal. They held it together, so it could have been bad,"said Chierichella. 

The FAA does allow lithium-ion batteries on planes but only in your carry-ons. Fire officials say this helps keep them in sight in case they do smoke.