At least 38 people have suffered injuries after a lithium ion battery on a micromobility device burst into flames on the 20th floor of a Midtown apartment building in New York City on Saturday.
The calls about a three-alarm fire at 429 East 52nd Street came at 10:24 a.m, according to FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.
“Fire, EMS and dispatch did an extraordinary job rescuing a number of civilians, including an incredible roof rope rescue on the 20th floor,” Kavanagh stated. “The total patient count as of right now is 38, two critical, five serious and the rest minor.”
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And Kavanagh wasn’t kidding about the heroic rope rescues.
Firefighters were seen pulling a woman who was dangling from her window to safety as smoke billowed around them.
During a press briefing at the scene of the fire, FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Frank Leeb praised his firefighters and the “exceptionally trained EMS members” for their response.
“Our units were on scene in just over three minutes and were confronted with a heavy fire condition on the 20th floor,” he said. “Our members did an amazing job. We saw the life-saving rope rescue — that is a last resort in the #FDNY, we were able to rescue two civilians from the fire apartment.”
“What we saw today was our training, our teamwork and our absolute dedication from the units that operated up there with the life-saving rope and then passing them off to our exceptionally trained EMS members to get these patients off the scene and to local hospitals in a matter of minutes,” he stated.
Leeb also warned of the dangers of lithium ion batteries, which are notoriously difficult to extinguish.
“The lithium ion battery adds a different degree, when we talk about the fire dynamics of it,” he said. “These rooms flash over in just a mere matter of seconds.”
Chief Fire Marshall Daniel Flynn emphasized the dangers the batteries present, noting that this is nearly the 200th fire started by a lithium ion battery from a micromobility device in New York City so far this year.
“This particular apartment, we believe the occupant was repairing bikes in the building, and the fire was right behind the front door,” he said. “We recovered at least five bikes from this apartment.”
Fire officials have urged New Yorkers to refrain from charging their e-bikes overnight and to discard batteries that are damaged in any way.
“These fires, they come without warning, and when they do go on fire, they’re so intense that any combustibles in the area will catch fire,” Flynn explained. “So we’ve seen secondary fires.”
Should you find yourself in a high-rise building with multiple apartments, Flynn emphasized the need to close the doors and shelter in place.
In the meantime, the Red Cross is on the scene in Midtown to help displaced families, NBC News reports.
The investigation into the fire is ongoing.
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