Fire Sparked by Electric Scooter Battery Kills Woman and Child in Harlem

A fireplace in a Harlem condominium early Wednesday sparked by the lithium-ion battery on an electrical scooter killed a 5-year-old woman and a 36-year-old lady, and left the kid’s father in crucial situation, the police and hearth officers stated.

Firefighters responded simply after 2:30 a.m. to a blaze that broke out in a sixth-floor condominium within the Jackie Robinson Homes, owned and managed by the New York Metropolis Housing Authority. The hearth was contained to 1 condominium and introduced underneath management about an hour later, in accordance with the Fire Division, and a firefighter and at the very least one different individual sustained minor accidents.

Exterior the multistory NYCHA constructing on Wednesday, a charred scooter sat unattended. Former co-workers and neighbors of the daddy, whom they recognized as Erick Williams, 46, stated it belonged to him. They described him as fun-loving and stated he had beforehand labored for the Parks Division. His identify, and that of his daughter and the girl, who neighbors stated was his girlfriend, weren’t instantly launched by the police.

Digital bikes and scooters have been implicated in quite a few fires in current months, main the housing authority to suggest banning them from its buildings solely. Specialists say the issues are sometimes linked to growing old, broken or malfunctioning batteries and charging units. The Fire Division has repeatedly warned of the hazards of lithium-ion batteries.

One other hearth on Monday on Townsend Avenue within the Bronx was additionally sparked by lithium-ion batteries from digital bikes or scooters, hearth marshals stated. Wednesday’s hearth introduced the variety of fatalities linked to lithium-ion batteries this 12 months to 5, in accordance with Fire Division statistics.

Marshals have performed 121 battery-related investigations thus far this 12 months — already exceeding the 104 carried out final 12 months — and have recorded 66 associated accidents. For all of 2021, there have been 79 accidents and 4 deaths associated to lithium-ion batteries. (Whereas these batteries are additionally present in cellphones, laptops and electrical vehicles, there haven’t been widespread studies of these objects catching hearth.)

In keeping with NYCHA, since 2019, there have been about 10 fires in public housing which have acquired an official or possible trigger associated to lithium-ion batteries. In a press release on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the company stated that the public-comment interval for the proposed new coverage to ban e-bikes and e-bike batteries in its buildings had been prolonged till Sept. 6, and that the company would difficulty a closing coverage after that date.

The Fire Division distributed pamphlets and fliers about hearth security and recommendation for utilizing digital bikes and scooters close to the positioning of the hearth on Wednesday. Among the many ideas: Earlier than shopping for an e-bike, make certain it has the UL Mark, which suggests it has been examined and meets security requirements. Observe the producer’s directions for charging and storage, and use solely that firm’s energy cords.

The recognition of e-bikes has grown drastically lately, however many who use them — for each work and pleasure — might battle with these tips. Doing so will be rather more expensive than shopping for off-brand or refurbished tools. And e-bikes are sometimes utilized by supply staff who’re making very low wages and who need to scrounge to afford the bikes within the first place.

E-bikes have been solely legalized in New York Metropolis in 2020, when many residents have been counting on supply providers, although they have been a typical sight earlier than then. Along with issues about hearth security, there has additionally been rising friction over visitors security on the town’s crowded streets.

Contained in the Harlem constructing on Wednesday, the partitions within the hallway close to the condominium have been blackened, and the odor of smoke lingered. A lady who lives on the fifth flooring stated she had escaped along with her youngsters, together with a 3-month-old.

“It’s scary,” she stated. “It’s a tragedy that it happened, a little girl’s life was lost.”

Exterior, a pair of former co-workers — Stephanie Cardona, 46, and Courtney Story, 52 — mentioned organising a memorial. That they had labored with Mr. Williams on the Parks Division, the place they stated he was a crew chief. The scooter, they stated, was “his transportation.”

Ms. Cardona recalled that Mr. Williams was at all times within the native park along with his daughter and three Huskies, which they stated additionally perished within the hearth.

Ms. Story held again tears as she contemplated the battle that Mr. Williams had forward of him.

“I hope to God he pulls through,” she stated. “It’s going to be a process to pull through, and then your baby is gone.”

“The world is not playing fair at all,” she added.

Alain Delaquérière contributed analysis.