Wichita, Kansas (KSNW) — A Wichita Transportation An electric bus caught fire early Wednesday morning after a lithium-ion battery caused $650,000 in damage.
The Wichita Fire Department (WFD) received a call around 1:20 a.m. that a bus had caught fire inside the facility.
“Specifically, the fire involved the bus’s battery compartment, the lithium-ion battery compartment,” WFD battalion chief Lane Pearman said.
The fire was contained in the battery compartment on top of the bus. There are 8 batteries on top and 2 on the back.
“We had to cut open the top of the bus to access the actual battery compartment so that the water could actually reach the parts that needed cooling,” Pearman said.
Pearman said it took about 90 minutes with two hose lines running water to cool the battery below the temperature that would stop the chain reaction that would cause this type of fire.
“Because of the chain reaction that continuously heats the battery until it actually ignites, it is very difficult and there are only two ways to extinguish the fire. Either we provide enough water to bring it down below the threshold,” Pearman said.
Wichita Transit Maintenance Superintendent Greg Ringold said the bus was sent out for maintenance three years ago after its check engine light came on.
“Nobody had touched it yet, and all of a sudden it was doing that,” Ringold said.
Wichita Transportation Director Mike Tan said the WFD had previously responded to Wichita Transportation because the same bus was smoking.
“That bus was actually rebuilt from the back,” Tan said. “The upper has been rebuilt. That’s interesting about what we found out from the manufacturer since it came back with everything done.”
CCW, the bus manufacturer, has come to investigate.
This bus was one of seven 29-foot-long electric buses built by CCW. The city also has four 35-foot electric buses made by Proterra.
All electric buses are inspected.
“The bus is inspected again, all the wiring, all the relays, everything, the switches.
Mr. Ringold said he wasn’t sure if the bus would be considered a total loss.
CCW is going to replace the electric bus.
Jose Ocadis of the Wichita Fire Department said the sprinklers in the building didn’t work because there wasn’t enough heat to activate the sprinklers.
No one was injured. The bus line ran on a regular schedule on Wednesday.
“We carry out thorough inspections of our buses every day. Our buses are thoroughly inspected by our drivers when they get on and off. We are doing everything we can to help,” Tan said.