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As e-bikes' popularity grows, so are reports of them catching on fire

The Colorado Springs Fire Department says charging e-bike batteries caused an apartment fire on Thursday.

DENVER — Investigators said charging electric bike batteries sparked an apartment fire on Thursday in Colorado Springs. The fire department said one person was hurt. 

That news may have caught the attention of a few people here in Denver, where the city's been handing out rebates to people who want to buy e-bikes.

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Co-founder of FattE-Bikes, Kenny Fischer, is seeing the rise in e-bike popularity firsthand.

"The Denver electric bike rebate is the greatest thing to come to Denver since the Stanley Cup," he said. 

But, there have been reports across the country of e-bikes catching fire with issues stemming from their lithium batteries. 

"There was one in New York not long ago and now there's one in Colorado Springs," said Fischer. "I think part of the issue with fires being reported like this is there's not enough context. There's not enough information about the battery, the maker, the charger, any of that."   

On Thursday, the Colorado Springs Fire Department warned not to leave fully-charged batteries plugged in. 

"Our customers can leave a battery on a charger. Nothing is going to happen," said Fischer. "It will stop charging the battery but it won't create any kind of spark or anything negative."

Though he said this isn't the case for all e-bikes. 

Fischer's company is going into its sixth year of building custom e-bikes in Denver. 

"By building them, we have a far higher quality control process," he said. "I tell them, if you're going to go buy a different bike from a different source, that's OK but just do your best to verify it."

He said it's important to buy from a reputable company. 

"If you purchase a bike from Alibaba, from Amazon, from a no-name, faceless website... Nobody can vouch for the lithium ion cells in those batteries, the quality of them, the quality of the construction, the quality of the chargers," said Fischer. 

With their bikes and batteries, he said they don't have any fire concerns. 

"It's thankfully nothing we've ever had to deal with. The hardest part of that situation for us is helping people overcome concerns with that," he said. "If you know where it's coming from, who you're buying from, then your bases are covered."

If you'd like to apply to Denver's e-bike rebate program, the window for applications opens up again on Monday, Aug. 1.

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