FDNY officials attribute the cause of an apartment building fire that injured nine people in the Concourse Village section Wednesday to a lithium-ion battery. An FDNY spokesperson told the Bronx Times that there have been 113 lithium-ion battery-related fires in 2023, resulting in 71 injuries and 13 deaths.
The fire broke out at 289 Bonner Place around 6:38 a.m. with a large blaze on the third floor of the five-story building. Fire officials say the fire extended to the fourth floor and affected multiple apartments.
The nine injuries are non-life threatening, and FDNY officials noted a lack of smoke detectors present.
Wednesday’s apartment fire required the response of nearly 120 firefighters to contain, with two suffering injuries during the response call.
When lithium–ion batteries and other high energy density batteries are poorly made, overused, incorrectly refurbished or charged too long, they can cause large, fast-spreading fires that are hard to extinguish, according to fire experts.
In New York City alone, since just the start of 2023, several high-profile fires — such as a blaze at a Chinatown e-bike store that killed four just last week — have been traced to lithium–ion batteries.
On May 16, a three-alarm fire in the University Heights section of the Bronx was caused by a lithium–ion battery.
City and state leaders have been attempting to regulate battery-powered mobility devices and recently, U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand secured $25 million in emergency funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation to build safe charging stations for e-bikes outside NYCHA buildings.
During a March 2 New York City Council meeting, the council passed several bills related to the usage and education of lithium-ion batteries and powered mobility devices.
On the national level, nonprofits like Consumer Reports have promoted legislation in Congress such as the Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium–Ion Batteries Act to protect consumers from the risk of fires tied to lithium–ion batteries used in micromobility devices such as e-bikes and e-scooters.
“Too many companies have ignored best practices and failed to take responsibility for the safety of their products. Strong, sensible rules are needed to stop this mounting toll of deaths and injuries,” said Gabe Knight, policy advocate for Consumer Reports. “We’re proud to endorse this bill, which will help prevent future tragedies.”
Consumer Reports noted that lack of regulatory standards around lithium-ion batteries endangers consumers, notably lower-income users – such as app-based delivery workers – who cannot afford higher-end, safer devices.
Additional legislation from U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres would grant the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission greater authority to develop safety standards for rechargeable lithium–ion batteries used in micromobility devices, and require the agency to issue a final rule within 180 days of the bill’s enactment.
“In New York and around the country, we’ve been reminded far too often of the escalating threat lithium–ion batteries pose to the public’s safety,” said Torres, whose district includes the South Bronx. “I’m grateful to the hundreds of first responders who continue to bravely respond to fires and explosions caused by these batteries and do all they can to save lives and property, but the time has come for the federal government to finally act. We must work to create and implement national safety standards for lithium–ion batteries in order to protect people and places from unreasonable risk, serious injury or damage, and/or death.”