Midtown High-Rise Fire Raises Smoke Alarm, Open Door Questions – NBC New York

What to Know

  • In an updated patient count, the Fire Department said Sunday that a total of 43 civilians, firefighters and police officers were injured
  • 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 that can refer to e-bikes and electric scooters

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.

“You saw the life-saving rope rescue. That is a last resort in the FDNY,” Deputy Assistant Chief Frank Leeb said Saturday. Video circulating on social media captured the harrowing rescue.

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.

“We will be out in this community and communities all over the city in the days and weeks ahead, handing out fire safety literature, handing out smoke alarms,” ​​FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said at a news conference Saturday.

“But we also want to emphasize the rising cause of fires from e-bikes and to ensure that families are making sure that they’re following the safest possible way to use these including not charging them overnight when they are asleep, including making sure they are certified and that the batteries that they are using are not damaged in any way.”

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