Seven people injured in massive blaze at Bronx supermarket

Photo Mar 05 2023, 12 33 38 PM
Firefighters work to subdue a five-alarm blaze at a Bronx supermarket on Sunday, March 5.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Bronx firefighters worked to subdue a harrowing five-alarm fire that broke out in the Tremont section of the borough Sunday morning.

Fire officials say the massive blaze broke out at a supermarket located at 2096 Grand Concourse just before 10:45 a.m. on March 5. Units arrived to find lithium-ion batteries in flames from several e-bikes parked at the location. According to FDNY Fire Marshals, the inferno was ignited by a lithium-ion battery inside of a scooter that was stored in the back of the store.

First responders were hindered by a double roof, part of which eventually caved in as the fire raged on. A mayday was eventually called and a short time later, firefighters working inside the building were evacuated — as were residents of nearby apartments, who could be seen spilling out onto the streets with their children and pets.

A woman flees the fire with her cat.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell
Firefighters were faced with heavy smoke and flames.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

As of publication, multiple tower ladders had been put into operation and the Fire Department works to get the inferno under control.

Seven people were reported injured as of 2:15 p.m. — five firefighters, one EMS worker and one civilian. Close to 200 firefighters were on scene at that time, fire officials said. 

The FDNY released a stunning video in which the scooter could be seen combusting into a ball of flames, something Mayor Eric Adams called chilling.

“The video is chilling,” Adams said on the scene. “When you saw how fast this fire started and spread, it just really gives you a point of pause to see what the commissioner has been stating for some time now. We have to really adopt to use of these batteries to make sure that the illegal batteries are not in the city and then we have to educate the public.”

“A simple scooter like this people park normally where? They park it at their door and when these batteries go up, they prevent any type of egress, you really locked yourself in and our real push is to inform the public that something as simple as seeing recreational can be extremely dangerous and can take the lives of innocent people,” he said. “This is a real problem we have in the city.”

Smoke billowed out from the Bronx supermarket.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

FDNY commissioner Laura Kavanagh drove home the fact that one single battery caused so much devastation.

“This call came in around 10:41 a.m. this morning. We are still here fighting this fire. We have over 50 units fire and EMS on scene with over 200 members. We have seven injuries,” she said. “This really shows you how incredibly serious this can be. Thanks to the quick work of our members who were here and under four minutes, we have been able to not have a loss of life today.”

“There is extraordinary damages in the entire building behind me is completely destroyed,” Kavanagh went on. “The roof is caved in — there is nothing left — and it is all because of this one single bike, so we really want to emphasize to the complex: How much damage can be done by a single bike that isn’t compliant?”

In a one-on-one interview with amNewYork Metro last week, Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn discussed the deadly dangers of lithium-ion batteries — and the death toll they’re leaving in their wake. The chief said more than 200 fires relating to the dangerous devices were investigated in 2022.

“That’s a lot of fires,” he said. “People are dying.”

In an op-ed written by Kavanagh and published Friday by amNewYork Metro, she said more than 400 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in New York City in the last four years.

These fires start quickly, grow rapidly, offer little time to escape, consume everything in their path, and are very difficult to extinguish, Kavanagh said.

FDNY officials deemed the fire under control at around 3:21 p.m., but said they will continue to monitor the scene overnight to ensure it does not reignite. Fire officials also plan to meet with the Department of Buildings to further assess the situation. 

Visibility was minimal as firefighters battled the blaze.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Additional reporting by Meaghan McGoldrick and Dean Moses