A house fire in Luton is believed to have been caused by a “home-made” e-bike left on charge, investigators have said.
Rescue pumps from White Watch Luton and Stopsley Community Fire Station were mobilised to the fire on March 22nd at approximately 22:30, where, on arrival, there was smoke issuing from the property, according to a Facebook post from Luton Community Fire Station.
Fire investigation confirmed the fire, which was located in the kitchen-diner, was caused by an electric bike left on charge. “This is believed to have been a home-made conversion,” said the fire service.
“Luckily, the house had working smoke detectors, which promptly raised the alarm, allowing residents to evacuate the property unharmed.”
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) recently urged the public and retailers to avoid e-bike and e-scooter batteries that don't meet UK and EU safety requirements.
The CTSI reports that the number of house fires caused by lithium-ion e-scooter and e-bike batteries in the UK has surged almost 150% over the past year, with many of the fires attributed to conversion kits that can convert a standard bicycle into an e-bike.
In response to this, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) has launched a Charge Safe campaign to help people safely use e-bikes and e-scooters and to inform them of dangers relating to charging, storing and modifying the vehicles and their batteries.
So far this year the LFB has been called to an e-bike or e-scooter fire on average once every two days – a 60% increase in the rate of such fires compared to the same period last year.
21-year-old Sofia Duarte died on New Year’s Day in a flat fire on Old Kent Road, South Bermondsey. Fire investigators believe the cause of the fire was due to a converted e-bike’s battery bursting into flames in the entrance to the flat she lived in.
The fire broke out in the afternoon of January 1st in the flat hallway, blocking the residents’ fire escape route. Investigators found a bicycle had been converted into an e-bike and the bike’s lithium battery pack had failed ‘catastrophically’, causing the fire.
Conversion kits allow people to add an electric motor to their bikes. Not all of them are sold with a battery however, and cheaper batteries purchased from online sources which don’t necessarily adhere to UK safety regulations are more likely to fail and present an increased fire risk, says the LFB.
“While there was no evidence of poor installation in this case, DIY installations can also lead to damage of the kit, increasing the chances of battery failure and the likelihood of a fire,” it added.
Dom Ellis, the London Fire Brigade’s deputy commissioner, said: “Sofia’s death is a tragedy, and our condolences are with her family and friends. We are working hard to prevent these types of incidents in the future.
“E-bikes and e-scooters are becoming more common in London and the risk of significant fires is rising too. We want people to travel safely and be aware of the risks that the batteries present as part of our #ChargeSafe campaign. Protect yourself and your loved ones by following our #ChargeSafe tips and by using our Home Fire Safety Checker.
“Never block your escape route with anything, including e-bikes and e-scooters. The only way to be sure of a legal, safe and reliable e-bike is to buy one in complete form, from a trusted and reputed retailer.
“The number of incidents our fire crews are attending shows that buying a product from a reputable seller will help protect you, your family and property from bursting into flames - not forgetting the peace of mind it can give.”