Lithium-Ion Batteries Blamed for Fire That Killed 4 in NYC

FDNY commissioner says it was an 'incredibly deadly' scenario at e-bike store
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2023 12:30 AM CDT
E-Bike Store Fire Kills 4 in New York City
A biker stops to look at a pile of e-bikes in the aftermath of a fire in Chinatown, which authorities say started at an e-bike shop and spread to upper-floor apartments, Tuesday June 20, 2023, in New York.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

A deadly fire in New York City has brought fresh attention to the dangers of lithium-ion batteries. Four people died early Tuesday and two others were critically injured after a fire broke out in an e-bike store on the first floor of a six-story building near Manhattan's Chinatown neighborhood and smoke spread to the apartments above, the New York Times reports. Daniel E. Flynn, chief fire marshal FDNY Bureau of Fire Investigation, said the business, HQ Ebike Repair, was fined for violations related to charging lithium-ion batteries in 2021 and 2022. He said investigators recently saw "many, many batteries" at the location.

"It is very clear that this was caused by lithium-ion batteries and e-bikes,” FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said at the scene, next to a pile of charred e-bikes. "This exact scenario, where there is an e-bike store on the first floor and residences above—and the volume of fire created by these lithium-ion batteries—is incredibly deadly," Kavanagh said, per the New York Post. The fire killed two women and two men, all over 60 years old. Eric Wu tells the Post that his parents are among the dead. He says the e-bike business was clearly unsafe, with e-bikes and parts often spread out on the sidewalk, and he had urged his parents to move.

The fire is the latest in a long line of deadly fires in New York City and beyond caused by lithium-ion batteries. The FDNY says so far this year there have been 108 fires caused by the batteries, killing 13 people, CBS reports. Lawmakers are pushing for tougher safety standards. The National Fire Safety Association recommends keeping the batteries at room temperature, not storing them anywhere near flammable items, and not charging them overnight or leaving them in the charger after they have reached full charge. (More e-bikes stories.)

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