Responding to Electric Car Fires Requires New Training for Firefighters
On Saturday, a Tesla caught fire after crashing into a traffic signal on North McCarran Boulevard and West 4th Street in Reno. Anytime firefighters respond to an electric vehicle fire like this, there are specific safety precautions they have to take.
On Saturday, a Tesla caught fire after crashing into a traffic signal on North McCarran Boulevard and West 4th Street in Reno.
Anytime firefighters respond to an electric vehicle fire like this, there are specific safety precautions they have to take.
First off, under the hood of a Tesla for example, firefighters must be able to identify and locate a first responder loop. This is how they prevent themselves from being electrocuted.
“In almost every model we need to know where the first responder loop is so that we can cut it and they're different in every car,” says Chief Charlie Moore with the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District. “If we cut that, it de-energizes the battery from all other components of the car."
Moore says because of an increase in electric vehicles on the roads in recent years, Truckee Meadows Fire has had to add new training to keep up with these changes.
Organizations like the Electric Auto Association of Northern Nevada are even reaching out to first responders by holding public events where they can learn helpful information.
“We invited them to one of our events and many of the owners that were there offered their vehicles and showed the firefighters under a stress free environment, this is where they are, this is how you disconnect them,” says Tyler Martin, Chairman of the Electric Auto Association of Northern Nevada.
But it's the response to real calls that's really teaching all northern Nevada fire departments how they need to adjust in the field.
“If one of those batteries does catch fire, they just don't go out once you apply a little water, we have to apply a lot of water, in fact Tesla recommends 3,000 gallons of water,” says Chief Moore.
He says that's more than 3 times the amount of water that Truckee Meadows Fire holds in one of its engines, so the agency tends to bring a water tender when responding to electric vehicle fires.
“When we put out a fire on an internal combustion engine, usually we put it out, it cools down, we give it to the tow company. In an electric vehicle fire, we have to stay on scene for up to an hour to make sure it doesn't reignite," says Chief Moore.
Chief Moore also warns the public to be cautious if ever assisting a person in an electric car fire. He says you should always assume that high voltage components of the car are energized.