‘Dangerous fire hazard’: Cleveland moves to shut down warehouse of e-scooters, lithium-ion batteries
19 Investigates was there as the company started packing up Thursday, moving e-scooters and batteries off the property.
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The city is calling a warehouse filled with thousands upon thousands of e-scooters an lithium-ion batteries a “dangerous fire hazard.”
Officials found the e-scooters and lithium-ion batteries dumped from here in Ohio and out of state at a Cleveland warehouse.
19 Investigates was there as the company started packing up Thursday, moving e-scooters and batteries off the property after the city moved to shut everything down.
We learned Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration took the company who runs Spin e-scooters to court.
The city’s complaint calls out the dangers of storing lithium-ion batteries... without a permit or license.
We spoke with Mark Griffin, law director for the city of Cleveland.
“These two pictures, I looked at and I’m like, wow, you’ve got to be kidding me,” he said, looking through a pile of photos.
The pictures show rows and rows of orange and black scooters filled the warehouse.
Cardboard boxes full of lithium-ion batteries were stacked on top of each other.
“The clock is ticking, they need to move, and we cannot be a dumping ground, as long as Mayor Bibb is mayor of the city of Cleveland and I’m law director, Cleveland is not going to be a dumping ground for anything,” Griffin said.
19 Investigates just reported extensively on the dangers of lithium-ion batteries last week.
These rechargeable batteries are used in everything from cell phones and electric cars to e-scooters and e-bikes.
“It’s almost like a torch. Yeah, and if it’s around combustible materials, then that’s what’s going to ignite and feed the fire,” said Kevin Bittner, a fire safety inspector with Euclid Fire Department.
The rechargeable batteries can spark deadly fires, like one that spread from an e-bike shop in New York City.
Back here in Northeast Ohio, at a warehouse on Lakeside Avenue near E. 42nd street, fire officials found the fire system reading, “trouble in system.”
They also discovered chemicals in the building.
Captain Dave Telban, Cleveland’s fire marshal, said fires with lithium-ion batteries can be harder to extinguish and even spark again, weeks later.
“When you have 8,000 of them in the building, it can be devastating as to take out blocks,” he said.
Our cameras were rolling Thursday as crews started cleaning up,
Taking apart the e-scooters and tossing them in dumpsters.
They also packed up boxes of batteries and brought in trucks to haul everything away.
We learned the city of Cleveland first sent a “cease and desist” to Skinny Labs, which operates Spin e-scooters, back in March.
But five months later, nothing changed. So the city just filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent a possible fire emergency.
Under the agreement, all e-scooters and batteries must be removed by Spin within 30 days and the company must immediately set up a fire watch as that happens.
They’ve been told to recycle as many batteries as possible and to document that they have not moved to another location in the city.
The city law director says if the e-scooter company does not comply, they’ll go back to court and ask for a contempt order and may even seize the property.
And that’s not all.
19 Investigates was the first to learn e-scooter and e-bike companies will now be under the microscope here, as the city ramps up inspections across Cleveland.
“I think our actions finally made a difference, we’re seeing that they’re moving them out today, and if you don’t force these out of state companies to act, they won’t,” Griffin said.
19 Investigates reached out to Spin, headquartered in San Francisco.
We have not heard back.
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