More fires caused by lithium ion batteries in New York in

More fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in New York in two months than in all of 2019: FDNY chief


Published March 3, 2024, 7:32 am ET

Lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes and other electronic mobility devices are now a leading cause of fires in New York City after their popularity surged during the pandemic delivery boom, according to FDNY officials.

FDNY Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn told The Post that the number of fires related to lithium-ion batteries has increased nearly nine-fold since the pandemic, with more fires related to the batteries occurring in the last two months than in the last two months entire year 2019.

“It's because of the proliferation of these electronic devices on our streets, there are a lot more of them now than ever before,” Flynn said.

The FDNY warns that poorly manufactured and maintained lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes and scooters have become a leading cause of fires in New York City. FDNY The fires caused by these batteries are violent because each energy cell can reignite even days after the initial fire. FDNY

The fire chief attributed the popularity of e-bikes and scooters to the “gig economy” boom in 2020, which saw people buy the devices cheaply in droves to complete delivery jobs.

He added that the vehicles are also popular with commuters.

“People bought these devices about three years ago, and now they are aging,” he said, pointing out that many are unaware of the dangers posed by the wear and tear of the batteries’ power cells.

“We have seen people trying to repair or modify it themselves, going to unauthorized vendors' shops or taking it into their own hands to replace the old batteries,” he added. “We tell people not to choose the cheapest option and go directly to the manufacturer.”

According to the FDNY, it is this improper maintenance and defects in older models that have caused a number of lithium-ion battery-related fires to skyrocket.

While there were only 30 fires related to the batteries in 2019, the number has more than tripled by 2021 with 104 fires reported. There were also four fatalities this year, while no one reportedly died from the fires in 2019 and 2020.

The number of battery-related fires more than doubled the following year, with 220 fires reported and six deaths confirmed. Last year, the FDNY reported 268 lithium-ion battery fires, 150 injuries and 18 deaths.

The FDNY continues to crack down on illegal businesses that sell and repair e-bikes and scooters without following new safety standards. Kevin C. Downs for NY Post The fires caused by lithium-ion batteries have placed additional strain on the FDNY and its hazardous materials division, which handles the disposal of the power cells. William Farrington

As of February 26, according to official information, there were 31 fires related to the batteries, as well as 26 injuries and one death.

The most recent death was that of Indian journalist Fazil Khan, who died in a fire in Harlem on February 23 after a lithium-ion battery caught fire in a six-story apartment building.

To combat the presence of faulty batteries in the city, the FDNY's Lithium-Ion Task Force conducts inspections in all five boroughs.

A lithium-ion battery fire killed one person in a Harlem building on February 23, with firefighters conducting a courageous rescue of three residents. Peter Gerber

FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh vowed in February to continue cracking down on companies that offer to replace individual battery cells with old ones – a violation of fire codes that leads to so-called “Frankenstein batteries.”

“They kill people, they have killed people and they will kill more people if companies continue to operate this way,” Kavanagh said.

But while New York has pushed companies and consumers to comply with new UL standards for the batteries, Flynn noted there is little the city can do about older devices from other states that don't require such regulations.

However, U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) is pushing for a nationwide standard to end the “unprecedented fire safety crisis.”

“Poorly manufactured and poorly handled lithium-ion batteries are ticking time bombs in American homes and businesses,” Torres said during a congressional hearing in mid-February in which he called for passage of the law setting consumer standards for lithium-ion batteries.

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