An electric bicycle powered by a lithium ion battery is being blamed for a fatal fire on Monday in New York City that killed two children, marking the latest in a string of e-bike-related fires in the city.
FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens said it took his firefighters only three minutes to arrive at the Astoria, Queens home. However, with the fast-moving nature of e-bike fires and the fact the bike was being charged near the front entrance of the multi-family building, the victims "didn't have a chance to get out of the building" given the intense fire that quickly traveled up the stairs to a second-floor apartment.
"So we got here very quickly. And if this was not a bike fire, most likely we would have been able to put this fire out without incident. But the way these fires occur, it’s like an explosion of fire," he told reporters outside the burned home. "It’s an ongoing problem. We implore everybody to please be very careful and aware of the danger of these devices."
With Monday's fire, there have been five fire-related deaths so far this year in New York City where officials have said the cause of the blaze was an e-bike. So far, there have been 59 e-bike-related fires this year. Last year there were six e-bike-related fatalities.
Hodgens said a father and his six children were inside the second-story apartment just before 2 p.m. when the fire occurred. The father and three of his children were able to jump from a window to safety. The mother was not at home at the time of the fire.
Hodgens said it appears an extension cord was running from the upper apartment down to what fire officials believe was an after-market charger for the bike, which was parked in the vestibule of the building. Hodgens said while the bike was being charged in this case, there have been other fires involving bikes not being charged at the time.
Electric bikes have become popular, non-gasoline-burning ways to make deliveries, commute and zip around a city that has promoted cycling in recent decades.
New York City Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh urged residents to follow all manufacturer safety guidelines and recommendations for e-bikes.
"We are also calling on our federal, state and local partners to move quickly on regulations that will help ensure tragedies like today’s fire are prevented," she said in a statement. "We are heartbroken for the family of these victims."