NEW YORK — Saturday’s high-rise fire in Midtown is the latest of almost 200 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries that the FDNY has investigated this year.
As CBS2’s Tim McNicholas reports, one of the first things you see walking into the building is a sign that reads, “No e-bikes allowed beyond this point,” but that’s not a rule everyone follows.
Eight floors below the apartment where the fire started, water still leaks from above into Ian Morgan’s 12th-floor unit.
“Stuff’s been coming through the ceilings in both the living room, the bedroom and the bathroom,” he said.
Morgan says he was frustrated but not surprised when he heard it was caused by the kind of battery used on e-bikes.
“The occupants who lived there had been a known problem in the building. They had had e-bikes going in and out, and the building’s been taking a no e-bike policy. It has not been enforced,” he said.
At least 43 people have now reported injuries from the fire, and two are in critical condition.
Investigators discovered at least five e-bikes either in or just outside the apartment that caught fire.
Saturday, Dan Flynn, chief fire marshal of the FDNY Bureau of Fire Investigation said, “We believe the occupant was repairing bikes in the building.”
A CBS2 investigation found that in 2021, the FDNY investigated 104 fires related to lithium-ion batteries, the kind used on e-bikes and e-scooters. This year’s total already surpassed that and is now at 175, causing more than 100 injuries and six deaths.
The fires are often caused by refurbished batteries or batteries that aren’t compatible with the charger being used.
“Particularly ones that are refurbished should not be sold,” New York City Council member Gale Brewer said.
Brewer has proposed a ban on the sale of refurbished batteries.
“How could that be prevented?” McNicholas asked.
“Obviously, if we do legislation, you can’t sell it. There would be fines,” Brewer said.
“I’m thankful that most people are OK,” Morgan said.
He says he had an e-bike but got rid of it after a conversation with his building super.
“He told me, ‘Do you know how many fires can be caused by e-bikes?’ And I got rid of mine. Clearly that conversation was not had with everyone else ’cause look what happened,” he said.
CBS2 has reached out to the building to ask how those tenants were able to get e-bikes inside despite the rule.
On Nov. 14, a City Council committee will host a hearing to discuss ways to prevent these fires.
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