A Tesla Model S spontaneously burst into flames in a Rancho Cordova, California, US scrapyard after the car had spent weeks sitting there after a collision.
According to an article in the dailymail.com, the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District said that firefighters arrived at the yard to find the vehicle fully engulfed in flames. Each time the firefighters attempted to extinguish the flames, the Tesla’s battery would reignite the fire.
The fire department posted an Instagram video of the ordeal, saying that even when firefighters moved the Tesla onto its side to spray the battery directly, the car would burst into flames again ‘due to the residual heat.’
Eventually, the firefighters dug a pit near the Tesla and moved the burning car into it and then filled the pit with water, ‘effectively submerging the battery compartment.’
The technique worked, and the fire department was able to put out the fire with no injuries and 4,500 gallons of water used – about the same amount of water used for a building fire.
Fires generated from electric vehicles can be especially hazardous, as they generate over 100 organic chemicals including some potentially fatal toxic gasses like carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide.
Capt. Parker Wilbourn, a spokesperson for the fire department, told the Washington Post: “This is a whole new animal for the fire service,” adding: “We’re still trying to wrap our heads around the [electric vehicle] fires.”
Wilbourn also said that the amount of water needed to extinguish battery fires could be closer to 20,000 or 30,000 gallons. The lithium-ion batteries found in electric vehicles can be difficult to extinguish because they continue burning until all stored energy is released, Wilbourn said: “We’re basically fighting energy release.”
Other similar incidents have occurred according to the Daily Mail article:
In December 2020, a house in San Ramon, California was burned to the ground after the homeowner’s two Teslas caught fire in the middle of the night. An investigation by the San Ramon Valley Firefighters narrowed down the cause of the fire to either the car’s electrical system or the battery.
And in April, in Nashua, New Hampshire, a Tesla that had hit a tree and caught fire was transferred to a tow company lot after the initial fire was extinguished, but the vehicle caught fire again due to the battery combusting.
Nashua Fire Rescue workers were forced to remove the battery from the burning car and seal it inside a Hazmat container to prevent it from combusting further.
In a social media post, Nashua Fire said: ‘These electric vehicle fires pose some unique challenges, and fire crews were on scene for an extended time to complete extinguishment.”