Lithium-ion Battery Causes Fire In Harlem


Lex Valluzzi, Staff Writer

On Friday, Feb. 23, disaster struck the neighborhood of Harlem in New York City when a lithium-ion battery belonging to an e-bike exploded in an apartment on the third floor of the six story building located on St. Nicholas Place.  

The apartment fire injured eighteen people, five of whom were in critical condition and transported to Harlem Hospital. The fire tragically claimed the life of Fazil Khan, a journalist employed at the Hechinger Report, a website that focused on inequality in education, at Columbia University. 

According to the FDNY, lithium-ion batteries have been the cause of 267 fires, 150 injuries, and 18 deaths in New York City last year. The lithium-ion battery fire in Harlem is marked as the first one this year. It was discovered that there were eight batteries inside the apartment at the time of the fire. Hopefully, with the city cracking down on the usage of illegally manufactured batteries, this will be the only.  

Videos were released to social media showing large clouds of smoke breaking through the windows and roof of the apartment that afternoon. Depending on their location, tenants either climbed down the fire escape or jumped out of windows to safety. Those who were trapped inside the apartment building on the third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors were saved by the firefighters. “Aviation unit helped direct firefighters to victims dangling from windows as firefighters made daring rope rescues,” The NYPD stated in a report. This rope drill was used to lower three people trapped on the ledge of the building’s fifth floor safely to the ground. This rope drill is also used once or twice a year, making the technique rare. 

A total of one hundred and six firefighters and emergency medical workers responded to the apartment building fire incident in Harlem. The apartment fire burned for three hours before finally being extinguished. After being extinguished, the damage of the building was assessed and the property was deemed unfit to occupy residents. The city issued a vacate notice to the apartment building, leaving many of the tenants displaced. The Red Cross, a non-profit organization that provides emergency aid to those who have been affected by disasters, has set up a reception center in a local public school to provide support for families affected by the fire.  

In January, FDNY fire commissioner Laura Kavanaugh traveled to Washington D.C. to address  the issue of lithium-ion batteries causing deadly fires in recent years. Kavanaugh wants to push  for legislation regarding a national safety standard for lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are  used in common household items including cell phones, laptops, children’s toys, and electric  toothbrushes. If lithium-ion batteries are not up to par with safety standards, then the statistics of fires caused by these batteries are likely to increase in coming years.

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