FDNY officials demonstrated just how much damage the batteries can do, showing an e-bike spark into flames inside the auditorium of its training facility on Randall's Island.
Wednesday's demonstration was part of a new national campaign by UL's Fire Safety Research Institute's campaign (FSRI) named "Take Charge of Battery Safety."
"This is not just a New York City issue. We are leading the way, as we so often do, with the most people, with the greatest density and certainly with the greatest and largest fire department in the country," Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said.
Watch the FDNY announcement
The commissioner was joined by officials from the U.S. Fire Administration and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to kick off the campaign, which includes a new public safety announcement, as well as tips to educate people on how to properly purchase and safely use lithium-ion battery powered devices.
"We have a chance to talk about electrification, modernization and technology and the dangers that it can face -- but also, the solutions," Kavanagh said.
"The commission recently announced that it's going to begin work on proposed mandatory standards for these batteries, and we're also going to continue to vigilantly enforce. We recalled more than two dozen of these products just a couple weeks ago," said Robert Kaye, with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
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Many fires are caused by faulty or damaged batteries, so a company called UL tests batteries to make sure they're safe. Stickers that say UL certified are required on all batteries sold in the city as of September, but even before September, investigators were finding fake UL labels.
After a fire killed two siblings at a Queens home in April, the FDNY discovered a charred scooter and a charger in the home with a fake UL certification label. Investigators suspect the fire was sparked by another charger, which may have had the same counterfeit sticker, but it was damaged too badly to tell.
"How frequent is that, that the fire department is finding a fake UL label?" CBS New York's Tim McNicholas asked Kavanagh.
"It's more frequent than it should be. It's not unusual, so they've found quite a number of them," Kavanagh said.
We wondered where people are finding the supposed UL labels, so we searched online. Within minutes, we found a listing -- 6 cents per 300 pieces -- on Alibaba.com, an online marketplace headquartered in China.
We asked another Alibaba.com supplier advertising UL stickers if they could ship to New York City and they started asking what size and design we needed.
Watch Zinnia Maldonado's report
"Is that legal?" McNicholas asked Steve Kerber, executive director of UL's Fire Safety Research Institute.
"That is not legal. You cannot sell UL labels online," Kerber said. "We wanna do everything we can to save lives and make people safer. That's obviously undermining that, so we need to do what we can to make it stop."
"They could put that on a device. You could see one of our inspectors pass, clear that device and then have that device explode and kill someone, and that is totally unacceptable," Kavanagh said.
We reached out to Alibaba.com for the story Wednesday and received the following response Thursday:
Thank you for bringing this important matter to our attention. Alibaba.com is committed to maintaining a high standard of product listings, and we strictly prohibit the sale of unauthorized and counterfeit items. Upon receiving notification of such listings, we promptly removed them from our platform and initiated enforcement actions against the responsible seller. We pledge to remain vigilant and proactive in taking measures against any sellers found in violation of applicable laws or our platform rules, as part of our commitment to uphold the integrity of the platform.
So far this year, lithium-ion batteries have caused 239 fires in the city, resulting in 124 injuries and 17 deaths, according to the FDNY. That's an increase across the board compared to the last two years.
This past Sunday, fire marshals confirmed awas caused by a lithium-ion battery. The remnants of two e-scooters were found inside the house.
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