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NYC Residents Suffer Burns from E-Bike Battery Explosions

In New York City over the span of a day, malfunctioning lithium-ion batteries have led e-bikes to catch fire, leaving a dozen people injured. Last year, four people died due to similar fires.

(TNS) — A dozen people were injured in four separate fires across the city sparked by lithium-ion e-bike batteries in a 24-hour span, FDNY officials said Friday.

The blazes, which broke out in Chelsea, Inwood, East Harlem and Kensington, are a continuation of a troubling trend of malfunctioning lithium-ion batteries used to power electric bicycles. The phenomenon was responsible for four deaths last year, the department said.

The first fire took place on the third floor of a nine-story apartment building on W. 23rd St. near Seventh Ave. in Chelsea when an e-bike battery exploded into flames, leaving the bike a scorched ruin. A resident of the building suffered smoke inhalation during the 7 a.m. fire.

Nearly 10 hours later, at about 4:30 p.m. firefighters were called to the corner of E. 125th St. and Park Ave. in East Harlem, where an e-bike caught fire. The blaze extended to a vehicle parked nearby, FDNY officials said. No injuries were reported.

The largest e-bike blaze took place in Brooklyn just after 4 a.m. Thursday when an e-bike battery sparked a three-alarm fire that gutted an E. 9th St. home near Cortelyou Road in Kensington as well as the rear of a neighboring building, FDNY officials said. More than 100 firefighters put out the blaze and treated seven patients at the scene. It took about two hours to bring the fire under control.

Residents said the home was being used to store e-bikes and e-scooters.

The last e-bike blaze in the 24-hour span happened at 6:30 a.m. Thursday when a lithium-ion battery attached to an e-bike exploded on the fifth floor of a sixth-story building on Fort Washington Ave. in Washington Heights. Four people suffered minor injuries and were taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital and Harlem Hospital for treatment. The e-bike was reduced to a melted ruin, cops said.

As of Thursday night, more than 40 fires have been linked to malfunctioning lithium-ion batteries, FDNY officials said. The fires have led to 20 injuries and one fatality. In 2021, 104 fires were sparked by lithium-ion batteries, resulting in 79 injuries and four deaths.

On March 13, a malfunctioning battery sparked a fire inside a Queens apartment. A 43-year-old man hospitalized after being pulled out of the raging blaze died of his injuries nearly two weeks later.

FDNY fire marshals determined that the blaze started in the kitchen on a makeshift work shelf. Several lithium-ion batteries used for scooters, E-bikes and other micro-mobility devices were found on the shelf, an FDNY source with knowledge of the case said.

Investigators were told that a tenant in the apartment built and repaired electronic skateboards powered by lithium-ion batteries. Three 50-gallon steel drums were also found inside the apartment containing lithium-ion batteries and battery components, sources said.

On Sept. 1, a charging moped battery killed 9-year-old Remi Fernandez of Queens as his desperate parents struggled in vain to rescue him from their burning basement home, officials said.

The blaze broke out at 2 a.m. as the lithium-ion battery charged in the Ozone Park apartment. A tenant in the building heard an explosion. Remi’s mom told a neighbor she heard her son cry out: “Mom, help me.”

Factory-installed scooter batteries seem safe and adhere to industry standards, safety experts say. The batteries that tend to combust are aftermarket items e-bike users buy online or in scooter stores as supplements or replacements for the battery that came with the device, said FDNY officials.

The Fire Department recommends that scooter owners never charge batteries unattended, and that batteries should be charged outdoors.

Nationwide, charging lithium-ion batteries for devices like scooters and E-bikes sparked 330 fires in the U.S. from 2015 to 2018, causing more than $9 million in property damage, says a Consumer Product Safety Commission study released in 2020.

©2022 New York Daily News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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