Firefighters need training to quench fires caused by lithium ion batteries in electric cars, Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said Thursday — especially since they’ve been known to re-ignite, sometime more than once.
“New technology helps us live our lives more efficiently, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t understand and tackle the risks that can be associated,” Patronis said in a statement.
“In 2017, there were more than 16,000 electric vehicles registered in Florida and more than 321,000 electric/gas hybrids. Our fire departments around the state should be equipped with the latest information on how to best manage electric vehicle fires so that they can do their job safely and effectively,” he said.
Patronis told his staff to offer specialized training to rank-and-file firefighters in putting out these fires.
Electric cars are no more prone to burning than gasoline models, but require special treatment, he said.
For example, a Tesla that crashed in Fort Lauderdale in May required between 200 and 300 gallons of water plus foam to put out, and even then broken pieces of the battery reignited — once when loaded on a truck for removal, and again in the storage yard, Patronis said, citing a National Traffic Safety Board report.
The first thing is to identify the make and model, to know where the battery is located and the best way to shut down the vehicle. Stored energy in different battery compartments are liable to ignite independently.
Patronis advised keeping wrecks away from built structures, and bearing in mind that electric vehicles are silent and may be “on” when they don’t seem so, and present a shock hazard.
Finally, he advised wearing self-contained breathing apparatuses when fighting electric vehicle fires, for protection against toxic vapors.
“It’s important that firefighters and fire service professionals are aware of the following potentially life-saving practices when dealing with electric vehicle fires.”