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Li-ion battery fire traps occupants inside Pa. rowhouse

Lancaster firefighters rescued three people over ladders during a fire caused by a malfunctioning battery

By Olivia M. Miller

LANCASTER, Pa. — A fire early Sunday at a home in Lancaster city was caused by a malfunctioning lithium battery, according to the Lancaster City Bureau of Fire Chief Todd Hutchinson.

The battery in question was charging in a first-floor area shared by the row home’s two apartments, Hutchinson said. The battery was used to power a scooter.

Around 2:45 a.m. Sunday, crews responded to the residence in the 500 block of West Lemon Street after a report of a fire.

Five people were inside the building’s two units at the time of the fire, Hutchinson said. Two people escaped from the first floor and three were rescued through second-floor windows by firefighters who responded to the scene.

Three people were transported to a hospital for evaluation, but there were no serious injuries, Hutchinson said.

The Red Cross is assisting the five displaced tenants, according to the City of Lancaster.

There was heavy damage around where the fire started, but Hutchinson said an estimate on damages was not yet available.

Hutchinson said he cautions the public against charging batteries overnight in places where someone can’t easily monitor them. Lithium-ion batteries have become a challenge for first-responders as the scooters and bikes they power have gained popularity.

While the West Lemon Street home had working smoke detectors, he said he encourages people to test them regularly.

Sunday’s fire adds to the list of fires on West Lemon Street over the past 15 months. The most recent occurred in an apartment above Brendee’s Irish Pub in April. A New Year’s Eve 2022 fire in a row home in the 400 block claimed the lives of two minors, while a fire in the 300 block last February displaced several people.

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