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Burning e-bikes, batteries in storage cause evacuation in San Diego neighborhood

San Diego Fire Rescue hazardous materials team responded to the container fire that threatened a home and high-rise


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By Karen Kucher
The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — A fire in a storage container holding construction equipment, e-bikes and lithium-ion batteries caught fire early Thursday, prompting the evacuation of a nearby home and the closure of all lanes of state Route 94 heading into downtown before the blaze was extinguished.

The fire was reported just before 4:45 a.m. on F Street near 17th Street in the East Village, and it briefly threatened a home and a nearby high-rise structure, officials said. It took crews about 20 minutes to knock down the flames. The fire incident commander requested the off-ramp from state Route 94 near F Street be shut down while crews were fighting the fire.

Caltrans reported on Twitter that all lanes of westbound SR-94 at 17th Street were blocked and traffic was being diverted to northbound Interstate 5, which caused a backup on the freeway. The lanes reopened around 6:30 a.m., Caltrans said.

No injuries were reported.

“There was a 25-foot (container) that was fully engulfed with construction equipment inside, e-bicycles, lithium-ion batteries. We could hear cracking, we could hear popping,” San Diego Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Chris Babler told OnScene TV. “We evacuated seven residents from that two-story structure. It is an old wood structure, that was the immediate threat.”

Babbler said hazardous materials teams responded because the fire involved lithium-ion batteries. Red Cross was assisting residents from the nearby home, providing temporary housing, because the fire had been throwing off “toxic smoke,” he said.

He said firefighters were sampling the air to see if it was safe.

“Those ion batteries can re-ignite 36 hours later, they are really caustic and they produce a lot of heat. So we are being cautious right now,” he said.

No other information was immediately available.

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