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Cause determined in expensive Idaho police department fire

Posted at 12:43 PM, Jun 13, 2024

UPDATE: Fire investigators from the Idaho State Fire Marshal’s Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Coeur d’Alene Fire Department have completed their investigation of the fire at the Coeur d'Alene Police Storage Building on June 9, 2024.

Analysis from investigators determined that recently acquired battery operated e-bicycles had a catastrophic failure ahead of the fire.

One of the lithium-ion battery packs that was being charged in particular showed signs of failure. According to investigators the charging station was properly plugged in and there was no evidence of misuse or prior damage to the e-bicycle or the 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.

Police in northern Idaho lost millions of dollars worth of law enforcement equipment and vehicles in a fire that tore through a department building over the weekend, Coeur d’Alene police said.

No one was injured in the fire that broke out early Sunday, but everything inside the large building was lost, Sgt. Jared Reneau said on Tuesday. The building held the department's animal control, code enforcement and information technology divisions, but it was primarily used for storing vehicles and equipment.

A SWAT BearCat armored unit, multiple motorcycles, an incident command trailer and dozens of laptops were destroyed in the fire, Reneau said, along with a new police cruiser and several vehicles that were parked outside. Multiple e-bikes, newly purchased for the police department's summer patrols, were also lost, he said.

“We were fortunate that the building didn’t have any explosives or ammunition,” Reneau said.

The department still has enough patrol vehicles for normal operations, and Reneau said the damage would not affect public safety.

“The largest impact is going to be to the officers that are working. A lot of the equipment helped us be a little more efficient,” like the mobile command trailer, which provided officers a place to cool off from the hot sun during large outdoor events, he said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Reneau said officials have no reason to suspect arson or other foul play was involved.

Officials are still trying to make a list of everything that was lost, and it's too soon to determine the exact cost of the damage or whether it will be covered by insurance, he said.

“But it will all take a significant amount of time to replace," Reneau said. “A lot of the equipment, even if we were able to write a check for it today, there's a limited number of manufacturers and a lot of agencies in line.”

Specialized vehicles like the armored tactical unit typically aren't available until around two years after they are ordered, he said.

“At the end of the day, our highest priority is the citizens,” Reneau said, and other law enforcement agencies have reached out with offers to help. ”We want to make sure that everybody understands that we're still going to work and provide for the public safety. We're going to ensure that continues to happen."