Al Smith, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, shows where a homeless person living behind the building plugged in electric bike, a move that blew up the battery of the bicycle and set part of the building on fire. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Al Smith, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, shows where a homeless person living behind the building plugged in electric bike, a move that blew up the battery of the bicycle and set part of the building on fire. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Blown electric bike battery sets Chamber building on fire in North Saanich

RCMP took the person in custody, said Al Smith of Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce

A fire sparked by an exploding battery of an electric bike charging at the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce has left lasting damage that has forced a temporary closure of the information centre.

Executive director Al Smith said the incident happened Friday afternoon, when a homeless person was charging their electric bike on the balcony.

Each battery consists of a series of smaller batteries, which then scattered, hitting the deck and setting it on fire, Smith said. A trucker with a fire extinguisher helped keep the flames under control until fire crews arrived, “which is the only thing that saved the whole building.”

Smith said the damage is not structural and largely cosmetic but did impact the electrical system in the office.

“The whole underside of the roof of the front-balcony, and then all of the wall sheeting down the side underneath the balcony is all burnt.”

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Sidney/North Saanich RCMP Cpl. Andres Sanchez confirmed that RCMP arrested the man in his mid-30s and of no fixed address.

“The individual is known to us… and right now, he has been released from custody with a court date, but police are looking to speak further to this individual and look for any other witnesses who may have seen what happened just prior to this fire starting.”

Police are looking at suggesting several charges for Crown to consider, including counts related to stolen property.

The incident did not cause any injuries.

As for Smith, he is still waiting on an damage estimate from the insurance company.

“But I think it would be safe to say a few thousand dollars probably,” he said, adding that the chamber will be out of action for a minimum of two to three weeks, pending any further delays in renovations because the building is on provincial land.

The closure isn’t expected to impact the chamber’s day-to-day operations as much can be done virtually.

The chamber office is part of a larger complex that also includes a visitor centre and restrooms for truckers.

“We probably won’t be reopening the info centre at any time soon, because we have to rebuild a bunch of stuff, but the truckers can still come and stay because the washrooms are outside that building, so that is still available.”

However, cellphones and other electronics won’t be able to be charged any time soon.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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