Shepherd’s Bush high-rise fire caused by e-bike prompts safety warning from firefighters

At the height of the incident, 60 firefighters were tackling the fire in a 12th floor flat. Fire crews led six people to safety and one man was taken to hospital.

The Brigade’s fire investigators have determined the blaze was accidental and caused by the failure of an e-bike’s lithium-ion battery. London’s firefighters have seen a huge spike in e-bike and e-scooter incidents as they have become more popular in recent years and have issued several warnings about how ferocious the fires can be.

Just this year, crews have already attended 32 fires involving e-bikes and another seven involving e-scooters. So far in 2022, there have been a further 17 fires involving other lithium-ion batteries and last year, in total there were more than 100 fires in the capital involving lithium-ion batteries.

London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said, “It’s incredibly concerning that we are continuing to see a rise in incidents involving e-bikes. 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 this 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.”

The Brigade’s advice is to never store e-bikes or e-scooters in communal areas as if they are involved in a fire, it can easily block the only means of escape.

Our fire investigators have determined that many of the e-bike incidents have involved e-bike conversion kits (to convert a standard push bike into an electric bike rather than purpose built ones). These only provide the motors and control gear but batteries must be sourced separately.

Assistant Commissioner Pugsley added, “There is a significant risk posed by the e-bikes which have been converted and we are predominantly seeing fires in ones which have been purchased from online market places and batteries which have been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards. Lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to failure if incorrect chargers are used. 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.”

A spokesperson from Hammersmith and Fulham Council said: “We are grateful to the emergency services for their speedy response.  We urge all residents to follow London Fire Brigade’s advice when charging e-scooters and e-bikes at home. These batteries and chargers, often bought unregulated on the internet, are highly dangerous and expose people to unacceptable risk. So we will be looking to take robust measures to ban charging inside council accommodation and look to the government to enable us to do this. We would also remind e-scooter owners that their use on public roads is illegal.”

E-bike and e-scooter safety advice:

  • Always use the correct charger for the product and buy an official one from a reputable seller.
  • Batteries can get warm during their use and it is advisable to allow them to cool down before attempting to re-charge as they could be more susceptible to failure.
  • Batteries should always be charged on hard flat surfaces where heat can dissipate.
  • Batteries can also pose a risk if they have been damaged, so try to ensure they are not getting knocked around while in use or while being carried as spares as this can increase the chance of damage to cells.
  • You should always make sure you unplug your charger once it’s finished charging. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when charging and we would advise not to leave it unattended or while people are asleep.
  • Ensure you have smoke alarms fitted in areas where e-bikes or e-scooters are being charged and make sure they are tested regularly.
  • Never block your escape route with anything, including bikes and scooters. Store them somewhere away from a main through route.

Assurity Consulting are leading experts in workplace health, safety and environmental compliance. For more information on our services, and how we can help you, please contact us on tel. +44 (0)1403 269375 or email us