Claire Withycombe

The Bulletin

A house fire in Northwest Bend early Thursday was caused by a lithium battery fire in an electric bike, according to the Bend Fire Department.

Homeowner Sterling McCord, 43, received second-degree burns on the balls of his feet when going into the garage, where he found the bike on fire, he said Friday.

McCord and his wife and two children evacuated before the fire department’s arrival shortly after midnight Wednesday , according to a press release from the fire department.

Most of the fire damage was to the garage, although the fire spread to the house, said McCord.

Extinguishing the blaze took several hours because the gas meter below the shut-off valve caught fire, according to the fire department.

McCord, who also owns a shop that specializes in electric bicycles, Bend Electric Bikes, said that his vigilance lapsed. The lithium battery in the bike was charged beyond capacity, which caused it to catch fire.

“The lithium cell should go only up to 1.2 volts per cell,” he said. Beyond 1.2 volts, lithium batteries “will self-ventilate and that usually means smoky hot, and that turns into fire.”

McCord had advice to offer others who own products with lithium batteries.

”Charge the bike where you’re around it,” said McCord. “Charge it in a place where you wouldn’t mind having a barbecue.”

Fires erupting in devices ranging from Sony laptops to high-end electric Tesla cars have raised awareness of lithium battery safety in the past year.

Owners should not charge physically damaged batteries or disassemble batteries, according to the press release.

— Claire Withycombe