FDNY shuts down scooter shop as ‘Frankenstein’ li-ion batteries burn
Firefighters, inspectors faced smoldering batteries made from cannibalized parts inside the Queens scooter shop
By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — City and FDNY inspectors shut down a Queens scooter business that was building dozens of fire-prone lithium-ion batteries — and not a moment too soon, as the batteries began to ignite as firefighters removed them, officials said Thursday.
Firefighters hosed down the batteries as they were being taken from Wilson’s E-Scooter Shop on Queens Blvd. near 67th Drive in Forest Hills.
“We had to extinguish them before we removed them,” said Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. “Tuesday’s inspection saved lives. A single [battery] took out an entire shopping plaza in the Bronx a few months ago. This location had far, far, beyond that.”
Eighteen people died and 150 were injured in lithium-ion battery fires in New York City in 2023. So far this year, no battery blaze fatalities have been reported.
Wilson’s E-Scooter built batteries with cannibalized parts and material from other batteries, the Fire Department said. Officials labeled their hybrid products “Frankenstein” batteries.
More than 60 lithium-ion battery packs, hundreds of individual lithium-ion cells, and dozens of electric and gas scooters were found in the shop, Kavanagh said.
Wilson’s E-Scooter was closed Thursday morning after being hit with a raft of FDNY code violations and summonses for breaking the City Council’s recently enacted laws regarding the proper storage of lithium-ion batteries.
“They were making batteries from scratch with individual cells,” FDNY Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn said. “They were taking [lithium-ion] cells and putting them in the pack. It’s very dangerous.”
Lithium-ion batteries must be built by professionals in a space designed for such an industrial operation.
Wilson E-Scooter ended up on the FDNY’s inspection list after the city Department of Consumer and Worker Protection flagged the spot.
“Wilson was advertising itself as a battery factory,” Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Commissioner Vilda Mayuga said.
Wilson’s website is clear about its line of business: “Let’s build a customized lithium-ion battery pack,” it advertises on one page. The site then asks customers to enter the specs for the scooter batteries they want.
“This location was not just repairing batteries but manufacturing their own devices,” Kavanagh added. “They kill people, and they will kill more people if businesses are allowed to operate in this manner.”
Wilson’s also offers to sell batteries it says are made by Panasonic and what it calls “China brand.”
Word of Tuesday’s inspection comes as a lithium-ion battery sparked a massive fire in the basement of a two-story Brooklyn home that injured two firefighters, Flynn said.
The fire on 48th St. near Sixth Ave. in Sunset Park erupted at about 3:30 a.m. and was put out in about an hour. The two firefighters were taken to Maimonides Medical Center for treatment.
The owner of the moped that sparked the fire admitted to firefighters that he had bought the battery “on the street,” Flynn said.
“It is not the original battery that came with the product,” Flynn said. “That’s the message we’ve been driving home — to make sure people use a battery that is UL-certified and bought from the manufacturer.”
A worker at Wilson’s E-Scooter was unable to comment on the inspection when reached Thursday.
In November, three generations of a Brooklyn family died in a blaze sparked by a faulty lithium-ion battery. Albertha West, 81, her son Michael West, 58, and her grandson Jamiyl West, 33, all died when the fast-moving fire tore through their Crown Heights home.