A lithium-ion battery caused a fire on the 20th floor of a Midtown skyscraper, injuring dozens

Dozens injured in Midtown skyscraper fire caused by lithium-ion battery


As CBS2’s John Dias reports, it’s a tactic the FDNY calls a “last resort,” but it was a first-class rescue.

The video shows brave rescuers rappelling from the 21st floor above a burning apartment to safely rescue two people trapped inside. This is called a roofline rescue.

“What we saw today was our training, our teamwork and our absolute dedication,” FDNY Deputy Deputy Chief Frank Leeb said.

“I cannot stress enough the extraordinary work of our members this morning, under incredibly dangerous conditions,” said FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.

The commissioner said the fire started around 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning on the 20th floor of a high-rise apartment building on East 52nd Street.

Thick smoke was seen billowing from the windows from the street below. Most residents of the building were initially ordered to shelter in place until it was possible to evacuate safely.

“The smoke was getting a lot thicker, so it was quite terrifying,” said one resident.

“Just grateful. We’re so happy to be home and to have our dog out,” said another resident.

The building has fireproof apartments, but despite the heavy smoke getting out was a challenge.

“It smelled of burnt plastic,” said resident Elizabeth Donohue.

Donohue just moved in on Friday. She evacuated with her sister.

“We had to go down 28 floors. There was water leaking from the pipes on the stairs,” she said.

Officials say a lithium-ion battery caused the fire, intended to power a micro-mobility device like an electric bicycle.

They recovered at least five bicycles from the apartment which caught fire.

“We believe the occupier was repairing bicycles in the building,” said Dan Flynn, fire chief for the FDNY Bureau of Fire Investigation.

The city’s chief fire marshal says these types of fires have increased exponentially. This year, they had to put out almost 200 of them, because of that.

“These fires happen without warning. When they ignite, they are so intense that all combustibles in the area ignite,” Flynn said.

The fire marshal also said that this year these batteries have caused fires that have claimed six lives.

No deaths have been reported in connection with Saturday’s fire.

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