About a week and a half after a fire started by an e-bike battery destroyed a Mill Bay home, the family is asking for help finding their missing dog.
On August 5, Mill Bay fire crews were called to a home at about 3 p.m. on Arbutus Terrace, off Inlet Drive, for a report of a fire.
READ MORE: ‘Completely destroyed’: Residents displaced following Mill Bay house fire Saturday
About an hour before the home went up in flames Dave Warbeck, the homeowner, plugged in an e-bike he was holding and charging for a friend to charge in the carport.
“It was just a recumbent bike that she could no longer climb hills on so she had an aftermarket front wheel motor attached to it along with a battery,” Warbeck said. “I was going to take it to her the next morning and just wanted to make sure it was fully charged for her so she could ride it and have some fun with it.”
Throughout the hour he said he was in and out of the carport to go through and put his two dogs in there while his wife was working, and everything was normal.
Just before 3 p.m. is when he started to smell smoke and could see it billowing from the carport.
“I went into panic mode. I went out the back door. I was in swim trunks, no shoes, nothing. I opened the door and could see the electric bike I was charging on fire,” Warbeck explained.
He said he yelled to his family to get out of the house and call 911, but he went back to the carport to try and save his dogs.
“I tried to kick open the door. By doing that I sort of fell and was blasted by a wall of flames so I got my face burnt, my shoulder burnt and it kind of knocked me back to the ground,” Warbeck said.
He then pried the door open with a broom stick he found on the ground.
“I saw one of my dogs come out through the heavy smoke. He was the older dog,” Warbeck said. “But I couldn’t see the younger one and my neighbour at the time started screaming at me to get out of the house because it was going to go.”
Initially the family believed their seven-year-old dog, Butch, was trapped in the fire and died, but fire crews told Warbeck they couldn’t find remains of the dog.
“So we were hopeful that he got out,” Warbeck added. “Then there was a sighting of him later that night.”
Warbeck said there has been very little sightings of Butch since, adding they have checked around the neighbourhood and in the back country.
“He’s in incredibly good shape, he’s my mountain biking buddy,” Warbeck said.
The family is asking the community to help find him.
Butch is a Vizsla described as about 60 pounds, three feet tall with a muscular build and brown fur.
Warbeck said he is very fast and used to the back country so he could be anywhere from Sooke to Duncan.
“Even if someone can catch a glimpse of him somewhere,” He said. “Maybe he’s down a road, down a trail, somewhere around in the area.”
The family is working with FLED – Find Lost & Escaped Dogs Vancouver Island to find Butch. Search crews have been looking in the Mill Bay and Bamberton Beach area.
Warbeck said he is also offering a $2,000 reward for information leading Butch back home.
Anyone who see’s Butch is asked to contact FLED at (250) 479-0911 or (250) 213-1420.
FIRES CAUSED BY ELECTRIC BIKE BATTERIES
As electric bikes become more popular, a number of fire departments across Canada and the United States are reporting more fires caused by their batteries and chargers.
On June 11, one person died in a fire at the Empress Hotel in Vancouver that Vancouver fire officials said was caused by an e-bike battery.
READ MORE: Memorial grows for victim of fatal battery explosion in Vancouver as officials warn of risks
Crews said the battery was modified and overcharged, causing it to explode.
Mike Fritz, a bicycle engineer in Chicago, told CBC News that some people do this to make the battery last longer, but it’s a dangerous move.
“Lithium ion batteries have limitations as to how quickly you can take energy out or put energy back in,” Fritz said. “If you take it out faster than the cell is capable, it overheats. If you put it back in faster than the cell can accept that energy, it overheats.”
Fritz advises e-bike owners to only charge the bike with the same charger that came with it and charge it in a place where you can get away safely if something does happen.