Last updated: 24/05/2024, 9:06 AM

Devastating e-bike blaze sparks warning to shoppers and families ahead of Christmas

15/12/2023 14:00
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A woman is seriously injured in hospital after she was forced to jump from the window to escape a house on fire.

The fire is believed to have been caused by the catastrophic failure of an e-bike battery which was at the bottom of a ground floor staircase and blocking the escape route.

Six fire engines and around 40 firefighters responded to the blaze on King Edward’s Road in Hackney shortly after 3am on Thursday morning (14 December). The fire was brought under control in just under two hours but most of the three-storey house was destroyed by flames.

A woman is in hospital with serious injuries after jumping from a second floor window to escape the fire. A man who leapt from a first floor window also required hospital treatment.

Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said: “This was a devastating fire that has destroyed a home and is a prime example of why the Brigade has been running its #ChargeSafe awareness campaign.

“A mother and son who were inside the home when the fire occurred had no choice but to leap from windows because their escape route was blocked.

“If you own an e-bike or e-scooter, do not store or charge it on an escape route such as hallway. If you can’t keep it outside, put it in a room where you can shut a door and contain a fire.

“Lithium battery fires are ferocious and they can spread so rapidly. They also produce a toxic, flammable vapour cloud which should never be inhaled. If your e-bike or e-scooter catches fire, get well away from it and call 999.”

This fire comes just days after a charging battery pack for an e-bike caught fire in the living room of a flat in Harringay. It left a teenager suffering burns. In 2023, there have now been 150 e-bike fires in London, along with 28 e-scooter fires. This is 53% more than the whole of 2022 and makes e-bikes and e-scooters the capital’s fastest-growing fire trend. Three people have died and around 60 people have been hurt in fires this year.

With Christmas fast approaching, the Brigade is urging people to be careful about where they buy their e-bikes and e-scooters and how they use them.

Assistant Commissioner Pugsley said: “From our investigations, we know many of the fires we’ve attended have involved second-hand vehicles, the use of incorrect chargers, or the bike has been modified using parts bought online.

“At this time, there is not the same level of regulation of products for e-bikes and e-scooters sold via online marketplaces or auction sites when compared to high street shops, so we cannot be confident that products meet the correct safety standard.”

If you’re thinking about buying one of these vehicles as a gift for a loved one for Christmas, please make sure you’re buying it, or the parts for them like batteries, conversion kits or chargers, from a reputable seller.

“And if you receive one for Christmas, or you already own an e-bike or e-scooter, make sure you’re using the correct charger, you’re not overcharging, and that you don’t tamper with or modify the battery pack. And as this fire in Hackney shows, keep it well away from an escape route and store or charge the vehicle outside if possible.”

The Brigade believes that product innovation as seen in e-scooters and e-bikes has come ahead of proper safety standards. In a response to a consultation in the autumn, the Brigade called for the Office for Product Safety and Standards to undertake further research into conversion kits for e-bikes to understand the safety of the product, and whether any specific standards need to be introduced. Along with conversion kits, batteries and chargers also require much-needed legislation to ensure these products are more strictly regulated. 

Safety tips for e-bike and e-scooter users to follow 

  • Never block your escape route with anything, including e-bikes and e-scooters. Store them somewhere away from a main through route. Our advice is to store these items in a safe external location if possible, such as a garage or a shed. 
  • Always use the correct charger, otherwise the risk of fire increases, and buy an official one from a reputable seller.  
  • Do not attempt to modify or tamper with your battery. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  
  • Converting pedal bikes into e-bikes using DIY kits bought online can be very dangerous. They pose a higher risk of fire. Get a professional or competent person to carry out the conversion and make sure to buy a battery from a reputable seller and that it is not second-hand. 
  • Check your battery and charger meets UK safety standards.  We have particular concern where batteries have been purchased from online marketplaces and when they've been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards.  Consumers buying any product can check that the item displays a UKCA or CE mark that ensures that the products meet UK and EU safety, health or environmental requirements. If buying online, buy from a UK supplier.
  • Watch out for signs that the battery or charger aren’t working as they should – e.g. if the battery is hot to the touch or has changed shape.  
  • Let the battery cool before charging. Batteries can get warm during their use and it is advisable to allow them to cool down before attempting to re-charge as they could be more susceptible to failure if overheated. If you are charging batteries indoors, please follow our advice on safe charging. 
  • Unplug your charger once it’s finished charging. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when charging and we would advise not to leave it unattended or while people are asleep.
  • Fit alarms where you charge. Ensure you have smoke alarms fitted in areas where e-bikes or e-scooters are being charged and make sure they are tested regularly. You can quickly and easily check your home by visiting our free online home fire safety checker tool

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