NEW YORK (WPIX) – Two siblings were killed in a fire at a Queens home that was caused by an exploding e-bike battery Monday afternoon, officials said. The fire happened at a home on 46th Street in Astoria just after 2 p.m., according to FDNY. The fire started in the first-floor vestibule and traveled up the stairs to the second floor.
A father and his five children were in their home on the second floor at the time of the fire, officials said. Two of the siblings died while the rest of the family was able to escape by jumping from the front and rear windows.
A contractor working across the street said he came outside to get something from his car and noticed children screaming from one of the smoke-and-fire-filled windows on the second floor.
“We tried to open the door, and it was all fire from the first floor to the second floor,” said Ayoub Boussaid, who said one of the children jumped out of a window into his arms.
Investigators determined that a lithium-ion battery from an e-bike sparked the fire.
“The way these fires occur, it’s like an explosion of fire. These occupants had very little chance of escaping,” FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens said. “We’ve been talking about this now for a couple of years and how dangerous it is to have these devices, especially if you keep them in your home, to store them anywhere near your exit.”
The fire is the 59th of the year caused by a lithium-ion battery in New York City, according to Dan Flynn, FDNY’s chief fire marshal. Five people have died from these fires so far in 2023, which is already close to tying the total number of fatalities in the previous year. More than 200 fires in New York City were connected to lithium-ion batteries in 2022, resulting in six deaths and 147 injuries.
Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh released the following statement about the Queens fire.
“The horrific fire that resulted in the death of two young people Monday afternoon is a stark reminder of the importance of an issue the FDNY has been talking about for some time: education and awareness around lithium-ion batteries. We know people have e-bikes and similar micro-mobility devices, and we are imploring users to follow all manufacturer safety guidelines and recommendations. We are also calling on our federal, state and local partners to move quickly on regulations that will help ensure tragedies like today’s fire are prevented. We are heartbroken for the family of these victims.”
The New York City Council passed new legislation in March to regulate lithium-ion batteries that power e-bikes. The legislation bans the sale of unregulated lithium-ion batteries in New York City.
The City Council also approved a measure requiring the FDNY to educate New Yorkers about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries.