On Sunday morning, a lithium-ion battery belonging to an electric scooter caught fire inside the Concourse Food Plaza in Fordham Heights, located at 2096 Grand Concourse near 181st St, causing the destruction of the building and injuring five firefighters and two civilians, according to authorities.
A striking security footage captured inside the store depicts the battery bursting into flames with intense sparks, filling the back storage area with flames and smoke.
The video shows an employee entering the storage area in an attempt to assess the situation, but within seconds, the flames and smoke intensify and fill the entire camera frame. The high temperature emanating from the faulty battery forces the worker to retreat from the room as it becomes completely consumed by the fire.
The FDNY reported that over 200 firefighters from 50 different units arrived at the scene within four minutes after the blaze started at around 11 a.m.
However, by that time, the fire had already escalated beyond their control. In a video shared on social media, firefighters on tower ladders can be seen using thick hoses to spray water onto the roof of the massive supermarket, as thick black smoke billows up into the sky and flames of red shoot out.
According to fire officials, the firefighters managed to contain the flames from spreading to a nearby furniture store, but unfortunately, they were unable to prevent the fire from causing damage to a neighboring laundromat.
“This is an extraordinary amount of damage from this one single bike,” FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said at the scene. “The entire building behind me is completely destroyed. The roof is caved in. There is nothing left, and it’s all because of this single bike.”
As per Kavanagh’s explanation, using aftermarket batteries, uncertified bikes or scooters, or chargers that are not compatible with the battery can result in what she referred to as “thermal runaway.”
The commissioner explained that in cases of lithium-ion battery fires, the material inside the battery cells overheats and ignites, leading to the rapid spread of flames to other cells. These fires are not gradual, but rather explosive and difficult to contain, he added.
Citywide, there has been a significant increase in the number of e-bike battery fires, with the incidents more than doubling from 104 in 2021 to 216 in 2022, according to fire officials. In the first two months of 2023 alone, there have been 22 battery-related fires, causing 36 injuries and two fatalities.
Mayor Adams arrived at the location and advised the public to exercise caution while handling these batteries.
“This is a real problem that we’re having in the city,” the mayor said. “What’s seen as a recreational device can be extremely dangerous. They can take the lives of innocent people.”