Daniel Flynn, the chief fire marshal of the FDNY, encouraged New Yorkers to report “hazardous conditions” inside repair shops, such as batteries being charged in close proximity, damaged-looking devices, or shops using extension cords for charging.
“These fires go from zero to 100 in a second,” Flynn said. “If you feel within yourself that there’s a dangerous situation, give us a call.”
New York City has seen over 100 fires and 13 deaths this year linked to e-bikes, more than double the total number of fatalities from last year, officials said.
The bikes are popular with delivery workers, but can overheat if defective or improperly charged, leading to fast-moving blazes that are difficult to extinguish. The dangers are especially grave in cities like New York where people live in close quarters.
On Tuesday, four people died of smoke inhalation and two others were hospitalized after a fire in the HQ E-Bike Repair spread to upper floor apartments. City officials said they’d previously fined the shop for its e-bike charging practices, though inspectors reportedly did not check to see if the store was selling reconditioned batteries on a recent visit.
Under new guidelines, fire officials will be directed to respond to complaints about e-bike batteries within 12 hours, rather than the previous policy of three days.
The city has issued nearly 500 summonses related to e-bikes, which can result in fines between $1,000 and $5,000.
The latest strategy, which will also include educational outreach to repair shops, comes on top of a raft of other proposed reforms that aim to attack the cause of e-bike fires.
Later this year, the city will ban the sale of e-bikes and scooters that don’t meet certain safety standards.
The fire department has issued public service announcements, while local officials have discussed a “buy-back” program for low-quality batteries.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press