Lithium-ion battery sparks fire, concern from officials

The FDNY battled a five-alarm fire at 2096 Grand Concourse in the Bronx on March 5, 2023. (Courtesy: FDNY)

(NewsNation) — A five-alarm fire in the Bronx that injured seven people is increasing officials’ concerns about blazes started by lithium-ion batteries.

The fire, which was caused by a lithium-ion battery on an e-bike, started around 10:40 a.m. Sunday at Concourse Food Plaza, according to the New York City Fire Department.

It only took five minutes for the flames to spread to the entire interior of the supermarket and to a laundromat next door, NewsNation local affiliate PIX11 reported. More than 200 firefighters were needed to put out the fire.

Five firefighters, an EMS worker and a civilian suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

“It’s an extraordinary amount of damage from this single bike,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said, according to PIX11. “This really shows you how incredibly serious this can be.”

These batteries are not regulated, and they’re often times duplicated into far more cheaper versions, then sold, and placed into electrical vehicles like e-bikes.

The FDNY says too many fires are happening too frequently and they’ve already proven deadly.
There have been more than 400 fires linked to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in the last four years, with more than 200 happening last year,according to the department.

Over the last four years, the fire department reports more than 300 people have been injured, 12 have died and more than 300 structures have burned down because of exploding lithium-ion rechargeable batteries.

Now, Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York City is proposing a new bill that would mandate new federal consumer standards for the batteries. Under this bill, called the Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act, the Consumer Product Safety Commission would establish a safety standard for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in electric bikes and scooters.
“I want to be crystal clear — the problem are the batteries,” Torres said. “The problem arises when these lithium-ion batteries are poorly designed, poorly manufactured and poorly handled.”

Kavanagh says it’s an issue that can’t be ignored.
“We have to come at this from every angle — federal, city, state, regulation, education, outreach,” she said. “This is an urgent issue so we have to attack it any way we can.”


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