Damage caused by fire on June 9, 2024, to Coeur d'Alene Police Department storage building.

Coeur d’Alene Issues Emergency Declaration, Lithium-ion Battery from E-Bike Cause of Structure Fire

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COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho – On Tuesday evening, the Coeur d’Alene City Council issued an emergency declaration at the request of Police Chief Lee White following the substantial loss of property from the June 9, 2024, structure fire at the police department’s storage building.

“The emergency declaration I’m seeking tonight is not a request for additional funding at this time,” stated White. He said that the current “cumbersome processes” relating to procurement would hinder the ability to quickly replace needed items when the insurance company signs off on them. “I’m not asking to go on a speeding spree.”

This emergency request comes the same day as the Idaho State Fire Marshal’s Office issued its findings that a lithium-ion battery from one of the police department’s e-bikes was the cause of the fire that destroyed millions of dollars worth of equipment and vehicles, including the SWAT vehicle, 100 laptops, and the entire fleet of e-bikes.

“This was a difficult, multi-day investigation,” said State Fire Marshal Knute Sandahl. “There were many complex aspects of the fire that needed to be sorted out.”

The emergency proclamation passed unanimously and allows for the city to circumvent the formal competitive bidding process to procure replacement items and materials. At this time, White stated that the department is not applying for federal funds related to the catastrophic fire.

Further funding discussions are expected to take place later, after Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP), the city’s insurance carrier, determines what the claim covers.

The Idaho State Fire Marshal’s Office was tasked as the lead investigating agency due to the complexities and high dollar loss of this fire. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) provided additional assistance due to the large loss from a government entity.

The release stated, “Fire pattern analysis had investigators focus on recently acquired battery operated e-bicycles, one of which clearly showed evidence of a catastrophic failure of the lithium-ion battery pack that was being charged after being used that evening by police. Officers assigned to bike patrol had received training on the e-bicycles’ use and charging after use, before they were placed into service. Examination of the charging station showed that it was properly plugged into an outlet and there was no evidence of misuse or prior damage of either the e-bicycle or charging unit.”

“This was an unfortunate and unexpected failure that caused the fire and is being ruled an accident,” said Sandahl. A forensic analysis will be conducted by the city’s insurance company, but the results will not be known for several months. “This is pretty typical for an insurance company because the failed product is so new, and the loss is so great,” Sandahl added.