Lithium-ion batteries and e-bike catch fire in Bensonhurst building: FDNY

lithium-ion battery in barrel
Firefighters carefully boxed up and removed lithium-ion batteries and an e-bike from the scene of a Bensonhurst fire on Tuesday morning.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Firefighters made quick work of what appeared to be another lithium-ion battery fire in Bensonhurst on Tuesday morning.

Someone called 911 to report smoke and fire at a three-story apartment building at 1522 West 4th St. at around 10:30 a.m., according to the FDNY. Firefighters promptly discovered smoke emanating from a first-floor apartment and forced the door open to discover an electric bicycle and its batteries aflame inside the unit. 

As residents watched from the sidewalk, New York’s Bravest quickly got the flames under control and searched the empty building for trapped residents. The fire was extinguished by 11 a.m., per the FDNY. 

burned door
The battery-fueled fire burned through the apartment door. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Engine Company 250 — which operates as a Hazmat company – packed the hazardous e-bike and its batteries into flameproof containers and removed them from the scene. No injuries were reported, and a department spox said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. 

Lithium-ion batteries — which power e-bikes and scooters – have become increasingly popular and dangerous in New York City over the past few years. The batteries have reportedly caused upwards of 113 fires so far this year, resulting in 13 deaths.

Per city records, the building has just two open violations recorded with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development – neither related to fire safety. 

According to the FDNY, lithium batteries that are damaged, overcharged, or charged or stored incorrectly are very likely to overheat and catch fire — which may cause battery cells to explode, resulting in rapidly-spreading, difficult-to-control fires. In April, a lithium battery fire at a Sunset Park e-bike store displaced two families — and last month, at least two battery fires destroyed property and injured people in Brooklyn. 

In June, after a fire at a Manhattan bike shop killed four people, the city announced it would crack down on e-bike battery safety with an education campaign and a “zero-tolerance” policy for store owners found defying safe storage protocols. 

firefighter on scene of lithium-ion battery fire
Lithium-ion batteries have caused more than 100 fires in the city so far this year. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

For individuals storing their e-bikes at home, the FDNY recommends only purchasing and using approved, brand-name batteries and charging cables, and being sure to use the appropriate battery, cable, and adapter for each e-bike or scooter. Chargers should be plugged directly into the wall and away from anything flammable, per department guidance. 

“If using a lithium-ion battery, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage,” the FDNY tweeted on Tuesday morning, before the West 4th Street fire broke out. “Always use the manufacturer’s cord and power adapter made specifically for the device. If a battery overheats, discontinue use immediately.”