NEW YORK - Three members of a family are in critical, but stable condition and a fourth is in serious condition after a fire tore through their Inwood home overnight.
According to the FDNY, the fire was ignited by a lithium-ion battery that was charging overnight.
The smell of charred wood and chemicals now permeates the apartment building, at 165 Sherman Avenue in Inwood. Inside the affected apartment, it looks like a bomb went off.
According to fire officials, there were no working fire detectors in the apartment.
"I watched it from my window," said one resident. "Oh, my goodness it's fire. I said to my wife and my daughter, we have to go down, we have to go down!"
Most residents evacuated, but the family inside apartment G, who was charging a lithium-ion battery while they slept, couldn't get out, the flames blocking the doorway.
Multiple residents said they woke up to the sound of a woman screaming asking for help. The fire was causing so much smoke she was struggling to breathe.
The fire department says three people were rushed to the hospital in critical condition with a fourth in serious condition.
"A lot of people die from the battery," the resident said. "It's illegal, they know. You want to charge the battery, don't do it in your home."
Fatal fires, caused by charging e-bike and scooter batteries, are becoming common in New York City.
"It doesn't smolder." Said the FDNY fire chief. "It goes from 0-100 very, very quickly within seconds."
The fire department is warning to not let the batteries, especially the cheaper ones, charge unattended or overnight, an end-of-shift challenge for exhausted food delivery workers, who rely on e-bikes for their livelihood.
"It's an issue," the chief said, "we're trying to get the word out and it seems to keep repeating, weekly."