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Officials offer more details on NW Bend garage fire apparently sparked by older e-bike’s failed lithium battery

Electric bike was charging when fire broke out, destroying NW Bend garage
Bend Fire & Rescue
Electric bike was charging when fire broke out, destroying NW Bend garage

(Update: More information about fire)

Smoke alarm, alert neighbor averted more damage

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A fire which consumed a Northwest Delaware Avenue garage on Tuesday night has been ruled as accidentally caused by Bend Fire investigators, who outlined further details Friday about the cause: an older electric bike with a battery plugged in and charging.

According to Bend Fire Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal Jason Bolen, the resident had returned home in the late afternoon and plugged his e-bike into a garage wall outlet to charge before going out to dinner.

Around 6:25 p.m., a neighbor heard a smoke alarm sounding but did not see any smoke or flames. The neighbor called 911 and a single engine was dispatched from the westside station to investigate.

Upon arrival, the engine captain reported an alarm sounding, smoke from the rear of the structure, and water running out to the street from beneath the garage door. The alarm was upgraded to a full alarm, bringing additional resources from more stations, as well as chief officers and fire investigators. 

Firefighters entered the garage to find it charged with smoke and advanced a hose line deep into the garage to locate and extinguish the seat of the fire. A failed water heater had partially put out the fire. After the structure was ventilated and checked for fire extension, fire investigators began searching for the area of origin and ultimate cause of the fire.

A heavily damaged e-bike was found in a corner of the garage, with its battery pack completely destroyed by fire. The plug to the battery charger was still in the wall socket, but the wiring had completely burned away, indicating an electrical failure. The battery fire extended to the nearby water heater, causing the water damage witnessed by the first arriving engine. 

Neighbors were able to contact the homeowner, who quickly returned to speak with fire investigators and confirmed their findings, stating he had plugged in the e-bike to charge roughly two hours before the incident.

A total of eight fire apparatus and 19 personnel responded to the incident and were on scene for roughly 90 minutes. There were no civilian or firefighter injuries. 

Bend Fire & Rescue wants to remind residents that lithium batteries can cause serious damage and injury if not properly used. They recommend the following tips for safely charging your e-bike or scooter:

  • Do not leave a charging e-bike battery unattended or on the charger overnight.
  • Do not use or attempt to charge a damaged or malfunctioning e-bike battery.
  • Only charge your e-bike battery with the charger provided by the manufacturer.
  • Do not use aftermarket, low-cost, counterfeit, or refurbished e-bike batteries.
  • If possible, store your e-bike battery in a fire-resistant cabinet or container when not in use.
  • Store damaged e-bike batteries outside and contact your local fire department to ask about safe disposal.
  • And of course, always have a fire extinguisher on hand and ensure that your smoke alarms are up to date and have fresh batteries.

“The smoke alarm and the alert neighbor were the heroes in this scenario.” said Chief Bolen. “Had the smoke alarm not sounded, this fire would have continued to grow and spread from the garage into the living space above, likely destroying the entire home.”

Sunday, October 9 marks the beginning of national Fire Prevention Week, and Chief Bolen noted that it’s a perfect time for families and individuals to evaluate the fire safety of their home.

“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our citizens and visitors.” he said. “Take a few minutes this week to not only inspect your smoke alarms, but also design and practice a home escape plan in the event of a fire.” 

Bend Fire Prevention staff will be sending fire safety information home with elementary students during Fire Prevention Week, as well as hosting an Open House for the public on Saturday, October 15, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the north fire station, 63377 Jamison Street. There will be live demonstrations of fire and EMS equipment as well as rescue evolutions and a demonstration from Bend Police Department’s K-9 team. 

For more information on home fire safety or to learn more about fire extinguisher classes and smoke alarm assistance, contact the Bend Fire & Rescue Prevention Division at 541-322-6300.

More information about lithium battery safety: https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/Public-Education/Resources/Safety-tip-sheets/LithiumIonBatterySafety.ashx

Article Topic Follows: Fire

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