Over 40 Injured After An E-Bike Sparks Dangerous Lithium Fire

Firefighters are warning people about the dangers of improperly stored or charging lithium batteries after 43 people were injured in a high-rise fire in Manhattan Saturday.

During this fire, there was also risky rescues that were involved. First responders had to pull off a rare rope rescue to save two people that were trapped on the 20th floor.

New York-Presbyterian Hospital said it received 34 patients from the fire and had released 28 as of Sunday evening. Authorities were looking into whether the 37-story apartment building had a fire alarm.

Officials said a lithium-ion battery attached to an e-bike in that same unit sparked the fire. A resident said e-bikes and e-scooters have been a growing problem inside the 37-story building, and warnings about charging them near radiators and blocking your front door have been posted.

The Red Cross provided temporary lodging and some emergency money for people who were displaced due to Saturday’s fire.

Hundreds of fires and six fire deaths this year have been tied to “micro-mobility” device batteries, including an 8-year-old girl killed in Queens in September. Saturday’s high-rise fire in Midtown is the latest of almost 200 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries that the FDNY has investigated this year.

Because of all of these accidents, the city is considering a ban on the sale of refurbished batteries. Some of the aftermath from this fire can be seen in the tweet below:

When a lithium ion battery fails, it can ignite, either due to a mismatched charger or because the highly flammable electrolyte inside the battery’s cells leaks out of its casing and ignites.

City council members have proposed several solutions, including banning the sale of used batteries within city limits and creating hubs for delivery workers with charging stations. E-bike related fires have continued occurring since the proposal was initially made, but New York City Housing Authority officials have not yet gone through with the proposal to ban e-bikes and batteries from its 2,600 buildings.

John Nightbridge is a veteran reporter, researcher, and economic policy major from UCLA. Passionate about world issues and potential ways to solve them is a significant focus of his work. Writing freelance and reading the news are John's passions at work. Outside of work, it's all about sky diving, surfing, and stock market modeling.