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We amplify marginalized voices and create meaningful work for those experiencing poverty

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Starting over after a devastating fire

Longtime Megaphone vendor Stephen Scott and his partner Adam Sundown are left having to rebuild their lives after an e-bike battery fire destroyed everything they owned

Stephen Scott

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I have a warning: e-bike batteries can be extremely dangerous, even deadly.

Here’s what you need to know. Lithium-ion batteries used in e-bike, scooters and electronics are a growing cause of fires. Many accidents happen here in Vancouver.

For example, in January, smoke was pouring out of a house in East Vancouver. The neighbours were shocked to learn that the fire killed three residents of the home, including a little boy.

One day later, a fire started in an apartment in a building in the West End; flames were visible. One man died and another was injured.

Six months later there was an explosion in a single room occupancy hotel in the Downtown Eastside. A resident, struggling to escape the fire and smoke, fell to his death from a window.

All of these fires were caused by lithium-ion batteries, the type of power source used in e-bikes, motorized scooters and many other products.

As a result, the Vancouver Fire Rescue Service is trying to raise awareness of the dangers. Batteries store a large amount of energy, and as with any product, a small number of the batteries can be defective — which cause them to overheat, catch fire or explode.

On Saturday, Sept. 9, this happened to me. One week before my partner Adam’s birthday and six months after my mother-in-law — Adam’s mom — died, our e-bike batteries exploded. Thank goodness we weren’t home. We had decided to go shopping and soon received a phone call from a neighbour saying there had been an explosion at our apartment and black smoke was pouring out from our suite. We jumped in a cab to get home quickly, but by the time we arrived, it was too late. Everything was gone — more than 35 years’ worth of belongings. We lost over $50,000 in jewelry stones, silver, gold, tools and supplies (Adam has been making jewelry for 10 years), as well as other items such as pins, rings, bracelets, necklaces… a very large collection, plus all of our household goods.

The cause of the fire was the e-bike batteries. We had left them plugged in to charge when we went out to grocery shop as we had planned on taking a bike ride in the afternoon. They must have overheated.

Now we are left fighting for compensation through an insurance claim. The problem is, we had no photos of our things, and the suite was cleaned out — with everything taken to the garbage before we were able to gain access to take any pictures. I think people helped themselves to what they wanted before we got there, but I have no proof, as everything is gone.

Adam has been working so hard for the past 10 years making crafts and jewelry to start his own business. We had just bought 15 display tables, and with all of the handcrafted merchandise, I estimate we are out about $500,000 (in retail value). It will take at least $50,000 for us to start over.

It’s been a tough year. I lost my father last year, and we are still grieving Adam’s mom. Thank God, however, we are still alive. I think my mother-in-law was watching over us that day. We were also fortunate to have been able to move into another suite in the building, but we currently only have a mattress, that I paid for on my credit card, on the floor.

I have started a GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/f/looking-for-support-after-house-fire) to help us replace household items and help Adam rebuild. I want to thank everyone who has donated so far. Bless your hearts.

Filed under: Vendor Voices

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Stephen Scott


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