Multiple people hurt after Manhattan apartment fire, caused by lithium-ion battery

Nov 5, 2022, 6:13 PM

Firefighters rescued a woman dangling from an apartment building in Manhattan where dozens were inj...

Firefighters rescued a woman dangling from an apartment building in Manhattan where dozens were injured during a fire on Saturday, November 5, 2022. (Gregory Olkowicz)

(Gregory Olkowicz)

(CNN) — At least 38 people were injured in a Manhattan apartment building fire Saturday morning, which authorities believe was caused by a lithium-ion battery connected to a micromobility device.

Of the injuries, two were critical, five were serious and the rest minor, Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a news conference. Officials did not release any further details about those injured.

A video shot from across the street of the high-rise shows a woman dangling outside a window as dark smoke pours out of the building. The video shows a firefighter using a rope to scale down the building to help the woman. The woman survived.

Authorities received calls about fire and smoke at the building on East 52nd Street shortly before 10:30 a.m., the commissioner said. The address officials gave corresponds to a 37-story apartment building known as the Rivercourt in Manhattan’s Midtown East neighborhood, with 292 apartments, according to the building’s website.

Fire units were on scene in “just over three minutes” after first receiving reports and encountered a “heavy fire condition” on the building’s 20th floor, FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Frank Leeb said during the news conference.

Two civilians were rescued from the apartment with the fire, Leeb said. Fire personnel used ropes to make the rescues, he said.

“Fire, EMS and dispatch did an extraordinary job rescuing a number of civilians, including an incredible roof rescue,” Kavanagh said, adding that fire personnel were working in “unbelievably dangerous conditions.”

The blaze was “close to our 200th fire this year where the cause of the fire is a lithium-ion battery from a micromobility device,” Dan Flynn, the chief fire marshal, said.

“We’re seeing an exponential increase (in these types of fires) … over the last few years. These fires, they come without warning and when they do go on fire, they’re so intense that any combustibles in the area will catch fire,” Flynn said. “We’ve had six fatalities this year just from these batteries that power micromobility devices.”

In January, a lithium-ion battery in an electric bike or scooter self-combusted in a Bronx apartment and sparked a four-alarm fire in which a firefighter sustained minor injuries, CNN has previously reported. More than 100 fires were caused by e-bikes in 2021, resulting in 79 injuries and four deaths, according to the FDNY.

Authorities believe that the occupant in the apartment where Saturday’s fire likely began had been repairing bikes in the building, Flynn said.

The fire likely started “right behind the front door,” Flynn added. At least five bikes were recovered from the apartment, he said.

“We are heading into the cold winter season, fires do go up, and so we really implore all New Yorkers to ensure that they and their families are safe,” Kavanagh, the fire commissioner, said. “We also want to emphasize the rising cause of fires from e-bikes and to ensure that families are making sure that they are 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.”

Fire marshals are on scene conducting an investigation, officials said.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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Multiple people hurt after Manhattan apartment fire, caused by lithium-ion battery