2 men, 2 women killed in fire at e-bike repair shop on Lower East Side

Wednesday, June 21, 2023
Lithium-ion battery caused fire that killed 4 at e-bike shop: FDNY
Four people were killed in a smoky fire that broke out in a Lower East Side e-bike repair shop on Madison Street.

LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Four people were killed in a smoky fire that broke out in a Lower East Side e-bike repair shop, and officials say the fire was caused by a lithium-ion battery.

Officials say the blaze began at around 12:15 a.m. Tuesday inside the store on Madison Street. A nearby deli worker called 911.

Heavy smoke came from the building as firefighters pulled out numerous residents.

Four people were killed in a smoky fire that broke out in a Lower East Side e-bike repair shop on Madison Street.

"We arrived in just about four minutes. We found heavy fire in an e-bike store, which is located on the first floor," Deputy Assistant Chief John Sarrocco said.

When e-bikes catch fire, it is typically not a slow burn. It is more of an explosion that is difficult for firefighters to put out.

Cell phone video taken moments after the batteries exploded show how it blasted a hole through the metal front gate.

Belal Alayah works at the deli next door.

"The flames are so hot it's going through the metal gate, that's how hot it was," Alaya said. "Within 15 minutes the flames just went upstairs, next door. It burned through the next door too."

During a press conference held after the incident, FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh implored New Yorkers to consider the risks and caution that come with lithium-ion battery-powered devices.

Fire officials say the bike shop is part of a six-story building with multiple dwellings above it. The bike shop was not believed to be open at the time of the fire.

At the press conference, it was revealed that the location had been summonsed by the FDNY as recent as last August for charging e-batteries, and the number of e-batteries on site.

WATCH: FDNY update on investigation into e-bike repair shop fire

"We have been aware of this location," said FDNY Chief Fire Marshall Dan Flynn, who also confirmed that the business had also been issued a separate summons in 2021.

"We did inspect this property in August, and we did issue FDNY summons," Flynn said. "They were found guilty in court. Those were all related to the charging of the batteries and the number of batteries."

The owner of the shop was issued a $1,600 fine in relation to that recent summons.

FDNY investigators have been watching the business since then and did not see e-batteries being charged during their most recent visit. "But they do have many many batteries, which is also a violation," Flynn said.

Officials say two of the victims who died in the fire were men and two were women, including a 71-year-old man and 62-year-old woman.

FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh gives a statement on Tuesday's deadly fire at an e-bike repair shop in Lower Manhattan.

At least two women were critically injured. All victims were taken to local hospitals, including the New York-Presbyterian Hospital Cornell burn unit.

Another resident was treated and released at the scene and a firefighter was checked out for minor injuries, authorities said.

"A friend of mine came in and yelled 'there's a fire next door. I step out, I see the flames so hot it's going through the metal gate. I knew it was the bike store, so I called the fire department, but the fire kept getting bigger and bigger and it took them awhile to stop the fire," Alayah said.

Thiy Alsaidi, a worker at the deli next door, says firefighters removed a piece of his ceiling to get to the tenants above the bike shop where the fire broke out.

"Without the opening from the store here there was no way of getting there. It saved many lives," Alsaidi said.

Fire Commissioner Kavanagh said this latest incident is now the 108th fire related to lithium-ion batteries this year, totaling 13 fatalities.

The Red Cross is now providing emergency housing to eight households, including 23 adults and 2 children.

ALSO READ | NYC searching for effective measures to regulate lithium-ion batteries

Since January, there have been 63 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in New York City resulting in five deaths.


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