NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York lawmakers are pushing new federal legislation to help combat fires caused by lithium-ion batteries.
A child and a teenager were killed in a fire in Astoria, Queens on April 10. A supermarket in the Bronx was charred by fast-moving flames in March. These are just some of the recent lithium-ion battery fires that continue to cause a trail of destruction and pain across New York City.
Alfonso Villa lost his 8-year-old daughter Stephanie last September, when the battery on his e-bike exploded while the family slept in Queens. “I want to tell the whole world not to bring the batteries inside your house because the batteries can kill your family in one second,” said Villa.
The use of e-scooters and e-bikes has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among thousands of delivery workers. They are operated by lithium-ion batteries, which can cost as much as $1000.
“They are a little cheaper on Amazon,” said Gustavo Ajche, a delivery worker since 2014.
The cheaper versions are more accessible but are also more prone to fires, especially when overheated and overcharged. There have been more than 400 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in New York City in the last four years, according to officials. There have been 64 such fires in 2023 alone. The FDNY said it is now No. 3 on the list of leading causes of fires in New York City.
“Citizens are far less likely to get out of their apartment and it means that first responders are in more danger,” said FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.
If approved, new federal legislation would increase manufacturing and safety standards for batteries that are allowed to enter the United States, offer greater protection for consumers and help educate the public on the safest way to use them.
“Technology is outpacing federal safety action in area after area, after area. And our job is to get the federal government to move faster to keep the public safe,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.
“We cannot allow for faulty or improperly manufactured batteries to keep causing these dangerous, deadly fires,” said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is a co-sponsor of the bill.
The mother of Stephanie Villa Torres said everyone should be given proper information about the batteries. “It is like bringing death to one’s home,” said Marilu Torres.
Torres is hoping the legislation passes in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate so that other families are spared from feeling this type of loss.