Four dead after fire breaks out in e-bike repair shop in NYC


(NEW YORK) — Four people were killed and two others remain in critical condition after a fire caused by a lithium-ion battery broke out in an e-bike repair shop and tore through a New York City building overnight, authorities said.

Reports of smoke and fire coming from the Manhattan building, which has an e-bike repair shop on the ground floor and residential units above it, came in just after midnight Tuesday, New York City Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said.

Firefighters pulled six residents from the building in critical condition, though four have since died, Kavanagh said. One firefighter suffered minor injuries, authorities said.

“It is very clear that this was caused by lithium-ion batteries and e-bikes,” Kavanagh said at a press briefing Tuesday near a pile of charred and mangled rubber, bicycle frames and electrical components.

Information on the victims has not yet been released.

Following the fire, which occurred in lower Manhattan near Chinatown, the Red Cross said it was providing emergency housing to eight households — including 23 adults and two children.

The location — HQ E-Bike Repair — was known to the fire department, which had cited it for violations in 2021 and 2022, fire officials said.

HQ E-Bike Repair was cited for multiple fire code violations in August 2022, found guilty and fined $1,600, according to Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn. The violations were related to the charging of and number of batteries at the location, he said.

The officials recently did surveillance at the property and found violations regarding the number of batteries, Flynn said.

Kavanagh stressed the danger associated with e-bike fires, which she described as more akin to an “explosion” than a “smoldering fire.”

“The sheer volume of fire is incredibly dangerous,” she said. “We’ve said this over and over — it can make it nearly impossible to get out in time.”

Including Tuesday’s incident, there have been 108 fires related to lithium-ion batteries this year in New York City, resulting in 13 fatalities, according to Kavanagh. By this time last year, the city had two fatalities from similar incidents, she said.

The mayor’s office recently enacted e-bike safety legislation that, among other measures, bans the resale of bikes or batteries and restricts the reconditioning of used batteries. Though some 65,000 e-bikes were purchased before the law took effect in New York.

“So even as we regulate them, we have to make sure we’re getting the word out about how dangerous these unregulated bikes are and the fact that they are here already in the city,” Kavanagh said.

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