FDNY Files Criminal Charges Against Brooklyn E-Bike Owner for Unsafe Battery Storage

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The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) battled a fire at an apartment building on Avenue A at St. Mark’s Place in the East Village earlier this morning. The cause of the fire, which damaged two floors of the building, hasn’t been officially announced, although firefighters discovered a lithium-ion battery on the second floor. Five residents suffered minor injuries.

This latest NYC fire underscores the potential dangers of e-batteries. In fact, as part of its effort to stem e-bike battery fires, the FDNY, on April 12, filed criminal charges against an e-bike shop owner for allegedly selling illegal uncertified batteries and for charging potentially explosive batteries in an unsafe manner.

Fire marshals arrived at the Electric Bicycle Shop at 1239 Flatbush Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and arrested and handcuffed the store’s owner. The charges, including reckless endangerment, violate fire codes for improper battery storage and charging. According to THE CITY, authorities have repeatedly issued several summons against the shop for a number of infractions.

This is the first time the FDNY has filed criminal charges against a person who has violated e-bike battery regulations. Until now, the FDNY and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection have strictly relied on enforcing civil penalties against store owners. In most circumstances, the financial penalties are minor, according to THE CITY.

E-Battery Fires in NYC

E-battery fires have skyrocketed in New York City since 2019, with more than 660 related fires erupting across the city, killing 28 New Yorkers and injuring 400 more. In March, for example, a fire at a multi-story building in Marble Hill injured four civilians and six firefighters and displaced more than 30 residents. Several e-bikes were stored where the fire started. In February, a 27-year-old man died in an e-battery-related fire in an apartment building in Harlem. Seventeen others were injured in the blaze that tore through the six-story building.

The Problem with Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are generally safe and unlikely to fail as long as there are no defects and the batteries are not damaged or mishandled. Also, not all lithium-ion batteries are the same. The battery used in e-bikes and scooters can be 50 times larger than those in our smartphones. And, because all lithium-ion batteries use flammable materials, they can cause “thermal runaway” – a chain reaction that can lead to a fire or catastrophic explosion. Battery overheating, punctures, or electrical faults like a short circuit can trigger this process. Moreover, in cases where fires occur spontaneously while charging, it is likely due to manufacturing defects.

E-battery Safety

Individuals should purchase UL-certified electric bikes and scooters from reputable retailers. If a fire occurs, evacuate immediately and call 911. Don’t try to put the fire out, as it can spread fast, and using a fire extinguisher is ineffective.

Additionally, follow proper charging and battery usage guidelines. According to University of Michigan researchers, any device with this type of battery should be charged and stored in a cool, dry location and not left charging for an extended period or while sleeping.

Routinely inspect batteries to ensure there is no cracking, bulging, or leaking.

Call the Law Offices of Ronemus & Vilensky

If you or a family member has been injured in a fire through no fault of your own, you have rights. The Law Offices of Ronemus & Vilensky, LLP can help you exercise those rights. You may be entitled to financial compensation if negligence has led to a fire injury.

 

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