E-Bike Battery Caused Fire That Killed Young Journalist, Officials Say

The apartment building fire that killed a young man in Harlem on Friday was caused by the lithium-ion batteries that power e-bikes, the Fire Department said. His was the first death in New York City this year to be linked to the batteries, which were blamed for over 250 fires and 18 deaths last year.

The man, Fazil Khan, 27, was a rising journalist. Days after his death, his friends, family and colleagues were struggling with the unfathomable loss of their loved one to a battery fire — a problem gripping the city that was just the kind of story he would have dug into.

“This was a preventable death. It’s outraging,” said Bianca Pallaro, a senior data reporter at The City who was a friend and classmate of Mr. Khan’s at Columbia University’s journalism school, from which he graduated with a master’s degree in 2021.

Mr. Khan grew up in New Delhi, where he studied English literature at Delhi University and earned a postgraduate degree in journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, according to an obituary in The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit newsroom covering education. Mr. Khan was employed there as a data journalist.

He was recognized for his talent at coding and his enthusiasm for stories that highlighted injustice, editors there said. He dove into the consequences for Arizona schoolchildren who received suspensions for poor attendance and uncovered a cluster of universities where poor students paid more out of pocket than wealthier ones.

The fire that engulfed his building on St. Nicholas Place in Harlem on Friday started around noon, the Fire Department said, and injured at least 17 people. Firefighters rescued some people by rope, rappelling down the side of the building. One man jumped from the sixth story to escape the flames, according to a police spokeswoman, and another suffered severe burns; both were still in critical condition on Tuesday, she said.

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