London Fire Brigade has said that a large blaze in a Shepherd’s Bush tower block last week was caused by an e-bike battery. The service has again warned that batteries and chargers sourced online may not meet the relevant safety standards, adding that when they fail, they can do so with “ferocity”.
On Tuesday, eight fire engines and around 60 firefighters were sent to Stebbing House in Shepherd's Bush, less than a mile from Grenfell Tower.
Three people from the affected 12th floor flat left before they arrived and a number of other residents also evacuated the building. Fire crews then led six other people to safety with one man taken to hospital.
Investigators determined that the blaze was accidental and caused by the failure of an e-bike’s lithium-ion battery.
London Fire Brigade has repeatedly warned about the dangers of using incorrect chargers and batteries after reporting a spike in call-outs in recent months.
The capital’s firefighters have attended 32 fires involving e-bikes and another seven involving e-scooters so far this year.
“It’s incredibly concerning that we are continuing to see a rise in incidents involving e-bikes,” commented the Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley.
“When these batteries and chargers fail, they do so with ferocity and because the fires develop so rapidly the situation can quickly become incredibly serious.
“These items are often stored in communal areas and corridors and can block people’s only means of escape.
“Another issue with fires involving lithium-ion batteries and which we saw at [the Stebbing House] fire is that when they fail, they eject their contents over a wide area which can lead to multiple areas of burning in the room where the fire has started.”
Pugsley said that many of this year’s e-bike battery incidents had involved conversion kits where only the motor and controls are provided and batteries must be sourced separately.
“Lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to failure if incorrect chargers are used,” he said.
“Our advice is to try and store and charge these items in a safe location if possible, such as in a shed or garage, and if they have to be stored inside, make sure there is smoke detection fitted and your means of escape is not obstructed.
“However we know this won’t be possible for everyone, so if you are charging them indoors, please follow our advice on using safe charging and ensure everyone in your home knows what to do in the event of a fire.
“Make sure they are charged in a room where there is smoke detection and on a hard, flat surface.
“We would also suggest people try not to charge them when they are asleep, so that if there is an issue they can react quickly.”