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‘It’s a blowtorch': e-bike fire inside NYC apartment injures 5

Fire involving li-ion batteries blocked the doorway of the second-floor apartment in Brooklyn



By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Five people were injured, three critically, when a massive fire sparked by a lithium-ion battery tore through a Brooklyn apartment early Tuesday, FDNY officials said.

The fire broke out inside the Menahan St. apartment near Central Ave. in Bushwick about 4:45 a.m., fire officials said. The e-bike was in the living room when it caught fire, blocking the only exit to those inside.

Responding firefighters had to remove a window in the second-floor apartment to get at the victims, FDNY Chief Kevin Woods said.

“They had to cut the gates [to get inside the window],” Woods said at a press conference outside the fireproof Menahan St. building. “It was a tremendous job, pulling the two victims from that window.”

A third resident was removed through the front door as firefighters hosed the blaze down.

“These fires caused by lithium-ion batteries are incredibly deadly,” FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said. “They are fast-moving fires and make it difficult for our members to get in and the victims to get out.”

The smoke from the blaze was so intense that it reached apartments on the seventh floor, where two more residents were overcome and needed medical attention, FDNY officials said.

Two of the five victims were children. The three in critical condition were all taken out of the fire apartment. All were taken to Wyckoff and New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center for further care, FDNY officials said.

“Two of the victims have been intubated, so they are severely injured,” FDNY Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn said, explaining how quickly a lithium-ion battery can spread.

“It’s a blowtorch, basically, inside your apartment,” he said. “Any combustibles surrounding that fire will catch fire immediately and spread to the rest of your apartment. It does not give you the time to escape.”

As of Tuesday, lithium-ion batteries in the city have sparked 216 fires that led to 120 injuries and 14 deaths, Kavanagh said. The FDNY fought 216 battery fires in all of 2022, roughly double the 104 it reported in 2021, department officials said.

Knowing that many of the blazes are sparked by knock-off batteries that do not meet national safety standards, Kavanagh has been reminding sellers at small city bike shops to online retailer giant Amazon of the new city law which bans sales of e-bike and scooter batteries not certified by Underwriters Laboratories or other testing labs.

[RELATED: FDNY commissioner to Amazon: Stop selling unsafe li-ion batteries]

UL stickers are a widely accepted indicator that electrical products have been tested for safety. The new city law went into effect on Sept. 16.

“Unless we see manufacturers being compliant we will still find devices like the one we see here … that are not compliant that do cause these deadly fires and injure New Yorkers,” Kavanagh said.

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