Written by Ronemus & Vilensky on January 8, 2023
Tragedy struck early on the morning of January 8, 2022 when a fire erupted in a four-story building located at 2230 Grand Concourse in the Bronx just after 2AM. Three families were displaced from the apartments above the ground-floor restaurant where the fire originated.
Marshals with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) investigating the fire determined that lithium-ion batteries from an electric scooter or e-bike kicked off the blaze. The apartment fire began in the Caridad Restaurant located on the ground-floor of the building, near an area where restaurant delivery workers’ bikes were stored. Charging the batteries for these bikes ultimately led to the devastating fire, which required 150 firefighters and EMS personnel to contain.
Once started, the fire quickly spread upward through voids in the building’s internal framework. Eventually, flames reached the apartments on the top floor, causing extensive water, fire, and smoke damage to the residences and tenant contents. Two firefighters were injured during the blaze; one required hospitalization. The tenants, although displaced from their homes, received no serious injuries.
The Dangers of Lithium-Ion Batteries
According to the FDNY, more than 100 fires were caused in the greater New York City metro area by e-bike batteries in 2021 alone, resulting in 79 injuries and the deaths of four individuals.
Lithium-ion batteries are the most common type of battery used in electric scooters, e-bikes, and other battery-powered transportation devices. While generally safe, these batteries can burst into flame or explode when they are damaged or overcharged. Hydrogen gas leaking from the batteries has been implicated in devastating fires across the country, injuring or killing hundreds of people.
Investigators from this and similar fires in the NYC area say that OEM batteries sold with e-bikes and scooters must adhere to stringent industry standards. Most of the fires caused by damaged or overcharged batteries were from aftermarket models purchased online or in scooter stores around the city. These batteries may not meet the same safety standards. To prevent issues, lithium-ion batteries should be charged outdoors or in unoccupied spaces with ample ventilation. The batteries should be inspected periodically for damage like cracking, swelling, or ruptures of the plastic casing surrounding the battery cells. In addition, lithium-ion batteries should not be allowed to remain on a charger for extended periods of time.