FDNY arrest, charge Brooklyn e-bike store owner for lithium-ion battery violations

Kemberly Richardson Image
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Owner of e-bike store arrested on charges related to lithium-ion batteries
Kemberly Richardson has more as the FDNY combats illegal ilthium-ion batteries and fires.

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN (WABC) -- The FDNY is sounding the alarm once again on the dangers of e-bike fires.

It's an ongoing issue in New York City: illegal and uncertified lithium-ion batteries exploding inside businesses and homes in the five boroughs.

There were five lithium-ion battery fires this past weekend, part of 10 reported fires within the past week. Although the number of deaths from these fires are down, the warning sign is clear.

FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh says there's now a shift, which is why Tian Liang Liu was arrested at his e-bike shop in Brooklyn.

"It's the sheer number of times we've gone there and the sheer quality and types of dangerous activity that they had going on at the site," Kavanagh said.

A special task force carrying out an inspection at Liu's shop on Flatbush Avenue on Friday found a load of uncertified lithium-ion batteries improperly stored as well as propane cylinders.

This wasn't the first visit to the shop, and so for the first time in a case like this, officials filed criminal charges against Liu.

"If we go there four times and you're not going to take the steps, and we told you that it was reckless, and you're not doing anything to change your ways, then you may be subject to arrest," said FDNY Chief Fire Marshall Dan Flynn.

While the commissioner says most small businesses have come in compliance, others continue circumventing the law in an industry where there is a lot of money to be made.

"Because of the amount of delivery workers, the amount of deliveries being made in the city of New York, we have to imagine that that would be our main reason," Kavanagh said.

Given all of this, the FDNY has had to change the way it operates once a fire is put out.

"We have to call our hazmat unit to come and take these batteries and put them in overpacks so they don't ignite again," said John Hodgens, FDNY's Chief of Department.

Kavanagh also points that even if you have a UL-certified lithium-ion battery, messing with it or cracking it open can make it just as dangerous as an uncertified one.

Liu in the meantime has been charged with reckless endangerment.

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