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Fire Officials Issue Warning After Electric Bike Sparks Blaze, Killing a Child and a Teenager

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A 7-year-old and a 19-year-old were killed in a house fire Monday that officials said was caused by an e-bike battery.

The fire began on the first-floor vestibule of an Astoria, Queens, apartment building located on 46th Street and quickly spread to the second floor, where a man and his six children lived, according to local news outlet WNBC.

Aided by multiple neighbors, the father was able to escape with several of his children after climbing through a second-story window.

A neighbor who lived across the street told the New York Times that after catching one of the children, he saw two others crying for help from the window, but they disappeared from sight.

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Of the six children, two didn’t survive: a 19-year-old female and a 7-year-old boy. According to the Times, their mother also lived in the apartment, but was not home at the time of the incident.

Another person was injured and was transported to a local hospital, WNBC reported.

The fire is believed to have been sparked by an electric bike’s lithium-ion battery, which was being charged near the front door of the downstairs apartment, according to the Times.

First responders were notified of the fire at around 2 p.m. and, with the help of over 100 fire personnel, had it under control an hour later, WNBC reported.

By that time, the fire had done significant damage, reaching from the front of the building to the back and all the way up to the roof.

Fire officials warned that e-bikes have been responsible for close to 60 other fires in the city just this year, with five people dying in those incidents, according to WNBC.

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“If this was not an e-bike fire, most likely we would’ve been able to put this fire out without incident,” Department Chief John Hodgens said, according to an FDNY Instagram post.

“This bike was right at the front door of the house and the occupants didn’t have a chance to get out of the building.

“The way these fires occur, it’s like an explosion of fire, and these occupants have very little chance of escaping.”

Chief Fire Marshall Dan Flynn said Monday’s fire might have been caused by using an aftermarket charger on the e-bike.

FDNY officials implored consumers not to do this.

“We know people have e-bikes and similar micro-mobility devices, and we are imploring users to follow all manufacturer safety guidelines and recommendations,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement, the Times reported.

Democratic Rep. Nydia Velázquez of New York’s 7th district expressed her sorrow for the death of the two children and their grieving families.

“We MUST do more to protect New Yorkers from these fires and save lives,” she wrote on Twitter.

“We need federal legislation to address this issue,” Velasquez added in another tweet. “In March, I introduced legislation to create safe and publicly accessible charging stations to help get these batteries out of homes and reduce the risk of fires.”

The legislation proposed by Velasquez, according to the New York Daily News, would require $500 million to fund public charging and storage stations for electric bikes, as well as scooters and mopeds.

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