Midtown High-Rise Fire Victims Worry for Future Safety – NBC New York

What to Know

  • The patient count jumped again on Monday, with city officials announcing a total of 46 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
  • Neighbors have started raising funds for tenants living on the fire floor, many who lost everything they had

It’s hard for Tony Manasseh to think about Saturday’s fire.

The midtown high-rise apartment building where he lives caught fire after FDNY investigators say a faulty lithium-ion battery attached to an e-bike sparked on the 20th floor.

“Until I opened the door for my wife and I to get out, enough smoke came in that the alarm went off,” Manesseh recalled. “One thing we has to say is the firemen were heroic.”

FDNY officials said they found at least five e-bikes inside the apartment where the afternoon fire started. Outside the 37-story building on Manhattan’s East 52nd Street, multiple signs say e-bikes are not allowed.

Many living inside the building told News 4 they knew there were multiple bikes in the apartment that caught fire Saturday, and past complaints had been made.

“We have that sign right there, but people have [e-bikes] and the 20F thing was not unknown, people knew they had bikes in there,” longtime tenant Helen Fuller said.

“Somebody else walked out with an electric scooter earlier today and some other residents gave him an earful in the courtyard and he didn’t seem too concerned about that,” Ali Gold said Monday.

As firefighters returned to the building for a third day, some tenants started packing up to move out for good, and others were figuring out what to do after losing everything. Neighbors have started raising money to help everyone on the 20th floor.

“We’re just more concerned about our neighbors that are displaced rather than ourselves right now, since we’re lucky enough to get away without issues,” Gold added.

A number of tenants in the building have banded together through a group text to support each other, especially since many have said they haven’t heard from their management company.

Manasseh wonders why there wasn’t a loud speaker or other kind of alarm to alert more in the building as the smoke from the fire traveled through the hallway.

MDM Management, the owner of the building, refused to comment when reached by phone twice on Monday. Inquires in-person with the building’s office staff were also denied.

In an updated patient count, the fire department said Monday that a total of 46 civilians, firefighters and police officers were injured. Two civilians were taken to a hospital in critical condition and two in serious condition.

Officials have been 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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