The rechargeable batteries that power common items like e-bikes, scooters and electric cars can pose a dangerous new threat to firefighters. They burn hotter and longer — and many fire departments may be unprepared to tackle them.
In June, four people were killed and two others seriously injured after a lithium-ion battery malfunctioned and sparked a fire in a first-floor e-bike shop in New York. Fire officials say the blaze quickly spread to apartments above the shop.
It’s not an isolated incident. Fires caused by rechargeable batteries, including lithium-ion batteries, have been increasing steadily in large cities like New York and San Francisco. Since at least 2019, fire departments in the two cities say they’ve responded to at least 669 incidents combined.
Last year, there were more than 200 fires blamed on lithium-ion batteries in New York City. Since 2019 the city recorded 326 injuries related to these types of fires, while San Francisco recorded 7 in the same time period.
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