EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Electric cars are better for the environment but can pose a hazard for firefighters.
El Paso Fire Department Captain Manuel Maldonado said electric cars are not necessarily more dangerous, but require a different approach when trying to put out fires caused by a crash or any accident.
He said that the initial extinguishing of the fire is the same: the firefighters wear the same protective equipment to extinguish the flames, but they take one additional step after.
“Once the fire is extinguished, we’re going to locate the battery,” said Maldonado.
Each make and model of an electric or hybrid vehicle may have the battery positioned differently. Some vehicles can have the whole bottom part designated for a lithium battery.
Maldonado explained that because of the thermal runaway and stranded energy, the battery will keep heating up and potentially igniting over again until it is properly and promptly cooled down.
“We’re going to cool the battery with anywhere from 500 to 4,000 gallons of water,” Maldonado said.
In comparison, he added, it takes about 500 gallons of water to extinguish a fire in one room in a house.
Maldonado said, “we may potentially see more of these issues arise, but we won’t know until we have more data built.”
So far, EPFD has not reported any incidents involving burning electric cars, but Maldonado said with more of them on the roads, it’s important to be prepared.
He stressed that it’s important for the electric car industry to address some of the concerns and provide guidelines for first responders.
Electric vehicle owners, he advised, should mention the model, year and make of their vehicle in emergencies so the first responders can prepare and quickly locate the battery if it is on fire.