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An electric scooter caught fire in downtown D.C.

It’s unclear what caused the Skip device to burst into flames, but the fire appeared to be concentrated around the battery.

The fire appears to have started at the battery pack on the scooter. (Teddy Amenabar/The Washington Post)
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A Skip e-scooter burst into flames near Franklin Square in downtown Washington on Thursday morning.

The scooter caught fire near the corner of 14th and I streets NW in front of a Compass Coffee shop. Employees at the shop said that a woman came in to tell them the scooter was on fire but that they did not see how it started.

The cause of the fire is not clear, though it appears to have started around the battery pack while the scooter was parked. A Washington Post reporter saw four other Skip scooters parked at the same corner an hour after the incident.

Skip Scooters said that the company is investigating the incident and that it is not ruling out the possibility of foul play. The company said that it thinks this was an isolated case and that its other scooters are safe to ride.

“We take these issues seriously,” the company said in a statement. “We are happy that there were no injuries. The incident was limited to the external battery and only caused minor damage to a nearby wall. We currently have no reason to believe that this affects any other vehicles in our fleet. We are investigating all potential causes of the incident, including foul play.”

Terry Owens, a spokesman for the District Department of Transportation, which regulates the scooter services, said that the agency has been in contact with Skip and that the incident is under review.

“We are not aware of any other fire incidents on scooters operated within the District,” Owens said, noting that Lime issued a recall of some of its devices across the country last year because of battery-safety concerns.

The operating permit issued by the city requires that all scooters meet a standard for electrical systems for personal e-mobility devices or equivalent safety protections, Owens said.

“Vendors are responsible for the safety and safe operation of their vehicles,” Owens said.

Marc Barnes, the owner of the Park at Fourteenth, which is nearby, put the fire out with a fire extinguisher.

“It’s one of the first hot days. I don’t know whether these batteries are going to do well in the sun,” Barnes said.

The D.C.-area forecast for Thursday from The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang called for temperatures to climb from the mid-80s to near 90.

Barnes added that he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the scooters’ batteries. He said he sees people “abusing those scooters” all the time and suggested that misuse might have led to the scooter fire.

One person tweeted in response to photos of the fire on social media: “instant album cover.”

A fire engine responding to the 11:30 a.m. calls about the burning scooter arrived two minutes later to find the small electric battery on fire, D.C. fire department spokesman Doug Buchanan said. No one was injured and the fire was extinguished within minutes, he said.

Buchanan said he could not recall other reports of scooter fires in the city.

Scooters can be found all over downtown Washington and are also available in Alexandria and Arlington. Montgomery County is planning to allow their use in that jurisdiction starting Saturday. The District this month announced the expansion of its program, which allows nearly 5,000 dockless devices, including bicycles and scooters, to be in operation.

Six scooter companies operate in the District: Bird, Jump, Lime, Lyft, Skip and Spin.

The ubiquitous devices have made other headlines in the city recently, having been used as getaway vehicles and causing delays after being abandoned on Metro tracks.

Reports of rental scooters being used to flee from or arrive at crime scenes are becoming more frequent. On May 18, two people on scooters in Northeast demanded property from a person and fled with her purse. In late April, a person carried out two armed robberies on Capitol Hill, according to D.C. police, and used a scooter to flee.

On Wednesday, Metro said a scooter abandoned on the Red Line tracks slowed the homeward journeys of thousands of commuters. Metro had to single-track trains while the scooter was removed.

There also are increasing reports of injuries — and some deaths — related to scooter use in cities including the District, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Lime, one of the world’s largest scooter companies, urged riders in February to take precautions while operating its scooters, citing a technical “bug” that can cause “sudden excessive braking during use.” Last year, the company also pulled scooters out of California after discovering that a number of them may have been carrying batteries with the potential to catch fire.

It is unclear whether Skip has experienced similar problems.

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