WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - Some of the city's electric buses are out of commission today after a fire destroyed one early Wednesday morning. Firefighters tell us they do not believe it will affect transit services today.

A battalion chief tells KAKE News the lithium ion batteries on one of the electric buses caught fire around 1:38 a.m. in the maintenance area of the Wichita Transit Center. Crews had to tear open the roof of the bus to get to where the batteries are stored. It took crews 90 minutes to control the flames and some windows of the building were broken in the process.

Wichita Fire Battalion Chief Lane Pearman says, "these types of fires involving electric type vehicles they are fairly difficult, because of that chain reaction that causes those batteries to continuously heat up to the point to where they actually ignite and the there's only two ways that fire's going to go out. It either consumes everything it's going to consume, or we provide enough water to reduce the temperature of those batteries below that critical temperature threshold." 

The fire destroyed the top of the bus leaving the inside and wrap looking untouched. Some other buses in the facility suffered smoke damage. Investigators are now trying to figure out what caused the bus' ten lithium batteries to catch fire. Damages are estimated at $650,000.

Battalion Chief Pearman says maintenance crews were there this morning doing some work in the area, but it's unclear if that is related. Investigators say the bus was not charging at the time of the fire. 

Just last year, the city received a $4 million federal grant to buy electric buses to replace the transit department's aging fleet of diesel buses. It's been working since 2019 to upgrade the buses in effort to save thousands of dollars on fuel costs. Last year, a quarter of its fleet changed to electric. The city wants to have an entire electric fleet by 2032.