Lithium-ion battery blamed for yet another fast-moving fire, NYC officials say

A lithium-ion battery sparked yet another fast-moving fire, this one in New York City on Sunday, leveling a supermarket and neighboring laundromat, authorities said.

Firefighters had water on 5-minute-old flames inside Concourse Food Plaza, about two miles north of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, but the blaze was already out of control, officials said.

An electric mobility device, possibly an e-bike powered by a lithium-ion battery, is being blamed for the five-alarm fire which was touched off at about 10:40 a.m. EST.

“Something that we had never seen before, as far as a small fire turning into something (big) like this in a matter of a few minutes,” FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens told reporters outside the burned down businesses.

E-bikes are a ubiquitous presence in major, high-density cities, especially in New York where this mode of transport is popular in delivery services.

The lithium-ion batteries that power them pose a significant fire risk because when units fail or overheat, they can release flammable, toxic gasses that can spark a fast-spreading flames.

The batteries sparked more than 200 fires in New York City last year alone, killing six people and injuring nearly 150. That’s double the amount of battery fires in 2021, according to the FDNY. 

But bikes are not the only common conveyance powered by lithium-ion batteries.

An electric bus caught on fire at a bus depot in Hamden, Connecticut, on July 23 while parked at depot.

A woman, 36, and girl, 5, were killed when an electric scooter sparked flames inside a New York City apartment on Aug. 3.

Flames from an electric scooter swept through a home in Brockton, Massachusetts, on Jan. 6.

New York Mayor Eric Adams repeated warnings against buying knock-off brand batteries and storing them indoors.

“You must buy the legal batteries and also these batteries should not be placed inside your home,” he said.

Five New York City firefighters, a utility worker and medical first responder suffered non-life-threatening injuries while battling Sunday’s blaze.

“There is extraordinary damage. This entire building behind me is completely destroyed,” FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said. “The roof is caved in, there is nothing left and it is all because of this one single bike.”

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