KEW GARDENS HILLS, Queens (PIX11) — An electric bike battery charging in the basement of a Queens home sparked a fire that injured more than a dozen children at an unlicensed day care Wednesday, officials said.
Fines were issued after a fire broke out at a home near 72nd Drive and 147th Street in Kew Gardens Hills. The owner was running a day care center without the proper license, according to police.
Rabbi Emmanuel, a parent of one of the children being cared for at the time of the fire, said he is not concerned about the day care operating without a license.
“She is better than any other licensed day care, and we as a community specifically asked she don’t get license,” Emmanuel said.
A lithium-ion battery for an e-bike charging in the basement started the fire around 2 p.m., according to the FDNY. It also exposed two businesses being operated from the basement — a day care center and a dental lab.
Firefighters found 18 young children inside, including one boy who was rushed to a hospital in serious condition.
“I see them bringing the babies and leaving them there,” said neighbor Benny Taubenfeld, who lives two doors down from the house. “I figured there was a babysitting service going on there.”
The New York City Department of Buildings issued violations for construction work being done without a permit and for running the businesses in a space that should be used for storage.
“In the interest of public safety, and due to the severe extent of the damage from the fire, we have issued a full vacate order for the building,” a Department of Buildings spokesperson said in a statement.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services released a statement about the incident.
“The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is devastated to learn of the injuries suffered by these children. While the program in question is not licensed by OCFS, the agency is conducting a thorough review to determine if it was, in fact, operating illegally. At this time, we cannot comment further on an active OCFS investigation.”