The tragic fire at a Queens home on Wednesday morning that claimed a 9-year-old boy’s life was ignited by overheated bike batteries, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters.
Firefighters found Remi Miguel Gomez Hernandez while battling a blaze that broke out at about 2 a.m. on Sept. 1 inside the basement of a three-story home on 102nd Road off Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park. Thirteen other people — including the boy’s father, who was burned while making an unsuccessful attempt to save his son, Nigro said — were removed by firefighters and treated for injuries not considered life-threatening.
Through an investigation by FDNY marshals, Nigro said, they determined that the blaze was ignited as a result of overheated bike batteries which residents had left charging overnight inside the home. The commissioner said the FDNY has experienced 60 fires across the city this year which had a similar cause.
What made matters worse, Nigro indicated, was that the home where the boy lived may have been illegally converted. The residence was a former garage with no egress point through the front, and only a rear door and a stairwell leading to the first floor. The investigation into the possible illegal conversion, he cautioned, remains ongoing.
The residence also lacked a working smoke detector, Nigro added.
According to the Fire Department, the all-hands fire broke out in the basement of the residence. It prompted a response from 60 firefighters from 12 FDNY units, along with EMS and the 102nd Precinct. The commissioner said the first units arrived within just four minutes of receiving the first 911 calls about the blaze.
Nigro said the boy’s family had just moved into the home the previous day, and apparently had left the batteries for an e-scooter plugged in overnight to recharge.
“None of these batteries should be charged overnight when people are sleeping,” the commissioner said, noting that they have a tendency to overheat and explode.
When the fire broke out, fire marshals determined, the boy had become trapped by the flames.
“The father of this young boy tried to get down the stairs. He was burned,” Nigro remarked. “He tried numerous times and was unable to get down to save his son.”
Firefighters came across the unconscious and unresponsive Hernandez. They pulled him from the residents and brought him to EMS units, who subsequently pronounced him dead at the scene.
The other victims of the inferno were treated for their injuries at Jamaica Hospital, Fire Department sources said.
While the investigation into the deadly inferno continues, Nigro resolved that the FDNY would work to help prevent future tragedies involving e-bike or e-scooter batteries.
“This loss of life could have been prevented, and we’ll work very hard moving forward to make this a safer city by working on how we can eliminate fires started by charging batteries,” he said.
Updated at 12:50 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2021.