A tragic fire lead to the death of four individuals at an e-bike outlet in Manhattan’s Chinatown, was provoked by lithium-ion batteries, according to the city’s fire commissioner’s revelation on Tuesday.
As stated by Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, the source of the destructive fire was lithium-ion batteries and e-bikes, both present in substantial quantities at the ill-fated location. She mentioned that the site was already known to the fire department due to prior violations and ensuing enforcement actions.
According to Kavanagh, lithium-ion batteries pose an enormous threat due to their propensity to generate intense fires when ignited, often giving responders little to no time to intervene once the blaze has commenced.
Chief Fire Marshal Dan Flynn provided additional context, noting that fire officials had previously inspected the store last August, issuing citations for violations concerning electrical wiring, battery charging, and the quantity of batteries. The store owners were held accountable for these violations and were accordingly fined. A follow-up inspection had been slated following the guilty verdict, however, it had not yet taken place.
Flynn also brought to light that the same property was charged with violations back in 2021.
In response to the growing number of fire incidents associated with malfunctioning or overheating lithium-ion batteries, a set of New York Democrats publicized their endorsement for federal legislation aiming to regulate safety standards for these batteries earlier this year.
Reportedly, in 2023 alone, there have been 108 fires and 13 fatalities connected to lithium-ion batteries in New York City, including the tragic incident on Tuesday.
The rise in lithium-ion battery fires correlates with their ubiquitous presence in numerous tech gadgets, such as laptops, cameras, and smartphones. Manufacturers’ faults, improper handling, and deteriorating batteries contribute to the increased fire risk linked to these batteries, which are composed of combustible materials.
Steve Kerber, Vice President and Executive Director of Underwriters Laboratory’s Fire Safety Research Institute, suggests that while lithium batteries are usually safe, the probability of incidents rises with their increasing prevalence, given no defects, damage, or mishandling.
Kerber advises purchasing UL-certified electric bikes and scooters from trustworthy retailers to ensure safety. If a fire occurs, evacuation and immediate call to 911 is recommended over attempts to extinguish the fire independently.
Experts also stress the importance of adhering to appropriate charging and usage guidelines for devices powered by lithium-ion batteries. University of Michigan researchers suggest these batteries should be charged and stored in cool, dry conditions, never left charging excessively or overnight – a practice many consumers commonly engage in.
Regular inspection of batteries for signs of damage such as cracking, bulging, or leaking, is advised, along with using the charger provided with the device or sourced from a reputable supplier. Additionally, charging an electric scooter or bike should not obstruct a fire escape or exit route.
Though some batteries are inherently safer than others, Sridhar Srinivasan, a senior director at market research firm Gartner, believes it will take a few more years before a safer alternative to lithium-ion becomes mainstream. LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries, for example, are less prone to overheating, while future technologies such as sodium-ion or solid-state batteries are expected to rectify some of the safety concerns associated with lithium-ion.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a fire incident related to lithium-ion batteries, don’t hesitate to contact us at Parker Waichman LLP through our toll-free helpline: 1-800-YOU-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529). We are committed to ensuring that you receive the compensation you deserve. Act now, and secure justice for yourself and your family.
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