There is no doubt that fires sparked by E-bikes are under reported in the United Sates. And it is not just E-bike-sparked fires that go unreported. When searching news stories on fires, and often fire fatalities, the familiar refrain in almost every story is, “The cause of the fire is under investigation.” End of coverage.
Contacting a fire department after an E-bike shop burned down, I explained I wanted to report on the cause of the blaze. I was passed from one department to another over a series of weeks. The result? No returned calls. Dead ends. Silence. I need to look into filing a Freedom of Information request.
More recently, there was a large fire department response near my home. I bumped into the crew a little later ordering dinner from a popular neighborhood food truck. The conversation went like this…
Me – “What was that big response you guys just had?”
Fireman – “We had a response.”
Me – “Well, I know you had a response. I saw all the units. What was going on?”
Fireman – “It was a call that we responded to.”
Me – “I get it! You’re not allowed to comment.”
Fireman – “Have a nice night, sir.”
I have to chalk up the fireman’s response to covering his butt so the department doesn’t get sued. Still, being so tight lipped deprives us of an essential tool in reducing home fires. Knowing why fires start is essential in reducing fires!
I commend New York City’s fire department for being transparent about fires ignited by E-bike batteries (even if they do inflate the number by lumping in electric motorcycle fires with E-bike fires). Communities can only hope their fire protection officials will be as forthcoming and the media will pass along the findings.
In a perfect world, the news reports that end with “The fire’s cause is under investigation” will be followed up with the investigation’s results. That knowledge could save lives and heartbreak.