A fire caused by an e-bike's lithium-ion battery killed two children in New York on Monday, officials with the New York City Fire Department said.
The fire started in the first floor entrance of a multi-family building in Queens, and then quickly traveled "directly up the stairs" to a second floor apartment, FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens told reporters at the scene.
A father and several children were in the upstairs apartment at the time of the fire, Hodgens said. The father and three of the children were able to jump out of the window to escape the fire – but two children died in the 2-alarm fire.
"It's a terrible tragedy," Hodgens said, adding firefighters arrived to the scene in about three minutes. "We got here very quickly – and if this was not an e-bike fire, most likely we would've been able to put this fire out without incident. But the way these fires occur, it’s like an explosion of fire."
Dozens of lithium-ion fires
Due to the fast-moving nature of e-bike fires and the fact the bike was being charged near the building's front entrance, the occupants "had very little chance of escaping," he said.
We had a terrible tragedy here today. A fire started on the first floor in the vestibule. The cause of the fire was an e-bike - said Chief of Department Hodgens from the scene of a 2-alarm fire which killed two people in Queens this afternoon. Read more: https://t.co/xjdPl7NZFx pic.twitter.com/SWA2nEXskR
— FDNY (@FDNY) April 10, 2023
Monday's fire marks the 59th fire caused by a lithium-ion battery powering a micro-mobility device in New York City this year, Chief Fire Marshal Dan Flynn said. Of those fires, there have been five fatalities.
"Last year we only had six fatalities," Flynn said. "We're a little over three months (into 2023), and we've had five people killed by these devices."
Flynn said it appeared that an extension cord was running from the upstairs apartment down to what fire officials believe was an after-market charger for the bike, parked in the vestibule of the building.
While the bike was being charged at the time of Monday's fire, there have been other fires involving bikes that were not being charged at the time, he added.
Lithium-ion battery safety, how to avoid fires
Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in cell phones, laptops, electric cars and scooters, FDNY notes. Among other guidance, FDNY urges people to use the approved equipment that has been made specifically for each device and to store batteries away from anything flammable.
Devices like e-bikes should also not be stored by exits because, in the case of a fire, it could block escape routes, FDNY says.
While devices like e-bikes have become popular, non-gasoline-burning ways to make commute around cities like New York, officials stress the importance of safe practices – and potential legislation to help prevent fatal incidents.
"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," New York City Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement.
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"We want people to use (lithium-ion batteries), but we want people to use them safely," Flynn told reporters on Monday, noting the importance of buying "chargers that are compatible with the devices that they purchase" and to not leave devices near exits.
"We lost two people today; we were fortunate not to lose six," he said.
USA TODAY reached out to FDNY for further information on Monday.
Contributing: The Associated Press.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: E-bike lithium-ion battery fire kills two in New York, officials say