In an alarming wake-up call for New York City, an early morning inferno linked to lithium ion batteries proved fatal for four residents in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
On Tuesday, Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh revealed that the deadly blaze began at HQ E-Bike Repair, a ground floor store cited last summer for violations related to its storage and charging of e-bike batteries.
At the scene, Belal Alayah, a neighborhood resident, reported seeing the flames spread beyond the metal gate and swiftly alerted the fire department, but it was too late for the victims – two men and two women perished in the fire while another two women are hospitalized in critical condition. Fortunately, all the firefighters were able to escape without serious injury.
Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn explained the incident, highlighting the results of the store’s August inspection, which found safety issues with its battery charging, number of batteries, and electrical system. Liu, the proprietor of HQ E-Bike Repair, however contested this explanation, insisting that no batteries were charging when he left the store Monday night.
Kavanagh warned of the potential danger posed by electric bikes, whose lithium ion batteries can overheat and catch fire while charging. So far this year, there have been well over one hundred fires and thirteen deaths related to battery explosions in the city, with a tragedy in Washington Heights last month that killed a ninety-four year old woman the latest. To combat this increasing threat, the city has implemented new regulations that aim to forestall future incidents.
Though electric bikes are viewed as a clean and efficient means of transportation, Tuesday’s fire serves an important reminder to be ever wary of the potential threats associated with lithium ion batteries. Given the devastating losses of life, New Yorkers are reminded to always take measures to ensure their safety, especially when dealing with electric bikes and their associated batteries.