NEW YORK (AP) — Authorities on Sunday were investigating a New York City high-rise fire that injured over three dozen people and was traced to a faulty lithium-ion battery, the latest in a fast-growing series of battery blazes that have fire officials concerned.
The Red Cross said Sunday it provided temporary lodging and some emergency money to two people displaced by Saturday’s fire, which spurred a dramatic and rare rope rescue 20 stories above Manhattan’s East 52nd Street, a few blocks from the United Nations’ headquarters.
In an updated patient count, the Fire Department said Sunday that a total of 43 civilians, firefighters and police officers were injured.
Two civilians were taken to a hospital in critical condition and two in serious condition. A message was sent to the hospital seeking an update on their conditions Sunday. All the other injuries were described as minor.
Officials were looking into whether the 37-story apartment building had a fire alarm, whether any doors were left open, and other questions. Authorities have pinpointed the cause of the blaze as a lithium-ion battery related to a “micromobility” device, a term for e-bikes, electric scooters and other items that help people get around.
Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn said there were at least five bikes in the apartment where the fire started. Investigators believe an occupant did bike repairs, Flynn said.
Citywide, nearly 200 blazes and six fire deaths this year have been tied to “micromobility” device batteries, marking “an exponential increase” in such fires over the last few years, Flynn said at a news conference Saturday.
Among the victims: an 8-year-old girl killed when an electric scooter battery sparked a fire in Queens in September, and a woman and a 5-year-old girl killed in August in Harlem by a fire that was blamed on a scooter battery.
The Fire Department has repeatedly urged users of such batteries to follow the manufacturer’s charging and storage instructions, employ only the manufacturer’s cord and power adapter, stop using a battery if it overheats, and follow other safety guidance.