A charging e-bike was the most likely cause of a fire that killed a mother and her two children in Cambridge in the early hours of Friday June 30. Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service has warned people not to leave e-bikes and e-scooters charging overnight and expressed concern that the cost of living crisis is encouraging more people to do so.
Emergency services were called to reports of a flat fire on Sackville Close in King’s Hedges ward at 1.08am. More than 30 firefighters attended, along with police, ambulance and air ambulance.
Gemma Germeney, 31, died at the scene while Lilly Peden, eight, and Oliver Peden, four, were taken to hospital where they sadly later died. A man in his 30s was also hospitalised.
Speaking about the likely cause of the fire, Area Commander Stuart Smith, from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Fire service and specialist fire investigators, together with police forensic teams and a fire dog, have spent the weekend carrying out a thorough investigation of the maisonette. A fire investigation looks for the most probable cause and in this case, we believe that to be an electric bike that was charging.
"We know e-bikes and e-scooters are popular modes of personal transport at the moment and we are urging anyone with one to be aware of the potential risks and follow simple precautions to reduce the likelihood of the batteries overheating.”
One recommendation is that electrical devices should never be left charging overnight. However, Smith warned that the cost of living crisis was encouraging growing numbers of people to do precisely this so as to exploit the lower energy prices during those hours.
“It isn’t just e-bikes and e-scooters,” he added. “We have so many electrical gadgets these days that all require charging – people just need to be aware of the risks and put steps in place to ensure they are being charged safety.”
The fire service issued the following advice about e-bikes.
- Avoid charging the battery overnight
- Do not leave charging for any longer than it needs to fully charge
- Plug the cable into a main socket rather than an extension lead
- Do not cover the battery with anything while charging
- Make sure you use the battery recommended by the manufacturer
- Always use the manufacturer approved charger for the product, and if you spot any signs of wear and tear or damage buy an official replacement charger for your product from a reputable seller
- Ensure you have working smoke alarms on every floor of your home and in the room where you charge the bike/scooter.
Smith also highlighted an online tool on the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service website that can be used to highlight fire safety areas to think about.
Advice about battery-powered electrical items in the online tool states: “Many fake electrical chargers on sale in the UK fail to meet UK safety regulations and can be deadly. Stay safe and don’t risk purchasing fake electrical equipment.”
If you have concerns about your e-bike, you can find a more comprehensive lowdown on battery safety in our feature: Are e-bike batteries safe? What’s the difference between a safe battery and a fire risk?