E-bike battery causes massive NYC fire, destroys homes, businesses: Officials

"There is nothing left, and it is all because of this one single bike," the fire commissioner said.

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Monday, March 6, 2023
E-bike battery sparks fire that destroys Bronx supermarket
Smoke could be seen from miles away from the fire on Grand Concourse and 181st Street in Fordham Heights. Flames broke out just before noon.Janice Yu has details.

NEW YORK -- Investigators say a battery on an electric bike is to blame for sparking a massive fire in New York City that left multiple rescuers injured.

They're now working to determine if the bike was powered by a non-approved battery.

"There is nothing left, and it is all because of this one single bike," said Commissioner Laura Kavanagh with the New York City Fire Department.

Image of electric bike involved in 5-alarm New York City fire

As the sun rose Monday morning, light poured into the food plaza and laundromat next door, showing nothing but debris and charred rubble.

Officials said it was the result of the electric bike (e-bike) lithium-ion battery fire.

"We have seven injuries: five firefighters, one member of EMS, and one civilian," Kavanagh said. "Everyone is stable, but this really shows you how incredibly serious this can be."

The fire also displaced people living in homes behind the building.

The damage is the latest example of why city leaders have been pushing for regulation of non-approved lithium-ion batteries used by e-bikes and scooters, as well as public education about where to store the batteries.

According to fire officials, these types of fires are extremely difficult to put out.

"We have to really adapt to the use of these batteries," New York City Mayor Eric Adams said. "We must make sure that the illegal batteries are not in the city."

The batteries are to blame for at least 30 fires in New York City so far this year, according to officials.

Just last week, the New York City Council passed legislation banning the sale of unregulated lithium-ion batteries.

And last month, the commissioner of the FDNY sent a letter to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission asking it to consider legislation that would prevent the sale and use of unapproved, refurbished batteries.

"This could be in your home and if you can do this amount of damage to a store of this size, just think of the danger that it can confront -- to yourself, to your family, to your building," Kavanagh said.

The loss of the supermarket will impact many in the community and will leave many with one less option when it comes to access to fresh food.