New York

With lithium ion-related fires on the rise, FDNY offers guidelines for e-bikes and e-scooter users

NEW YORK — The city’s chief fire marshal says there have been 150 fires so far this year related to the batteries used in e-bikes and e-scooters.

That’s already surpassed last year’s total.

CBS2’s Tim McNicholas takes a closer look at how quickly these fires spread, and their dangerous consequences.

He saw the aftermath of the latest fire that investigators believe was related to one of those batteries. The tragic part is the blaze killed an 8-year-old girl on Saturday.

And she’s far from the only victim.

“It’s just scary to remember that day,” Khadijah Bethea said.

READ MORENassau County fire officials issues warnings and advice on how to properly charge lithium ion batteries

On Thursday, boarded-up windows marked the spot at the Jacob Riis Houses where Bethea saw flames back in December and frantically texted her friends who live in the building to get out.

“I knew how urgent it was, especially seeing how really, really high that fire was. It was out of control,” Bethea said.

Her friends got out safely, but one man was killed and a 13-year-old and an 18-year-old climbed onto a pole to evacuate.

Investigators found seven e-bikes in the apartment and blamed the fire on the batteries.

“It’s dangerous. We know how dangerous it is,” Bethea said.

The FDNY said it was one of 104 fires related to lithium ion batteries last year, and so far this year, at 150, it’s already worse.

“We really could double our numbers from last year,” FDNY Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn said.

Flynn says six people have died this year in fires related to failed batteries.

“When they do fail, they fail very unexpectedly and very violently. It’s almost like a blowtorch effect,” Flynn said.

READ MOREFDNY: 200 lithium ion batteries found after fire breaks out in Hell’s Kitchen building

A recent demonstration with experts showed what can happen when the batteries are overcharged. Within just 52 minutes, flames broke out.

“I wouldn’t say it’s our leading cause, but it’s getting there,” Flynn said.

The FDNY says you should only use chargers that are compatible with the battery, don’t try to repair a faulty battery, and never charge your batteries overnight.

“A lot of these fires that we’re seeing where people are getting seriously injured and killed, if they had followed our recommendations, these things wouldn’t have happened,” Flynn said.

NYCHA has pushed to ban e-bikes on its properties.

“That’s not a good idea,” Upper West Side City Councilmember Gale Brewer said.

Brewer co-sponsored a bill that would ban the sale of e-bike batteries in the city that aren’t properly tested by a lab and labeled as such.

“We’re not interested in banning those bikes. We want to make sure they continue to work, but we want to make sure the batteries are safe,” Brewer said.

Brewer is also considering writing a bill that would ban the sale of refurbished or second-hand batteries.

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