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FDNY says fire that injured 38 was started by e-mobility device battery

Published November 7, 2022

NEW YORK (BRAIN) — The New York Fire Department said lithium ion batteries on e-mobility devices caused an apartment building fire on Saturday that injured 38 people.

"The cause of this fire is a lithium ion battery which is meant to power a micro mobility device," FDNY Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn said in a NYFD Instagram post. "This is close to our 200th fire this year caused by lithium ion batteries from micro mobility devices. The fire was right behind the front door, we recovered at least five bikes from the apartment,” he said.

According to the department, two people injured were in critical condition Saturday. Five were in serious condition and the rest of the injuries were minor. The fire broke out on the 20th floor of the building in Manhattan on East 52nd Street. Four firefighters rappeled down the exterior of the building to rescue one woman who was hanging out a window to escape the fire.

The department's Instagram post showed images from the fire of burned electric scooters. 

While FDNY officials regularly attribute e-mobility fires to "e-bikes," industry members have noted that the fires most often are caused by low-cost e-scooters and sometimes e-bikes that don't comply with the industry's 3-class system. This fall, representatives from the National Bicycle Dealers Association and Human Powered Solutions, an industry consultant group, attended a symposium hosted by the FDNY on the emerging threat of lithium-ion fires. NBDA President Heather Mason participated in a panel discussion at the symposium. 

Mason said the department made clear that lithium-ion batteries have "changed the game" in terms of fighting fires. "Yesterday’s tactics are in many respects obsolete when fighting a battery fire. Retailers and riders alike must realize that a lithium-ion battery fire, and its aftermath, is different and significantly more dangerous than the fires that we have come to know and understand. We must be proactive to minimize the chance of fire,” Mason said.

HPS's Mike Fritz, who also attended the symposium, noted that none of the fires referenced as case studies at the symposium involved IBD-quality e-bikes. "E-bikes with quality battery packs may cost a bit more, but minimizing the chances of catastrophic battery fires, and the associated loss of life and property, is well worth the extra expense," Fritz said.

The NBDA has conducted a variety of retailer education sessions on battery safety, including a video series that can be seen on YouTube.

Image from an FDNY Instagram post.
Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

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