Rising EV and battery fires in St George trigger ‘new problems’ for firefighters – St George News | CarTailz

ST. GEORGE – Electrical battery fires have been growing, igniting a problem that is posing problems for first responders, St George’s Fire Chief Robert Stoker said.

FILE: St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker speaks about recent increase in electric battery fires and safety tips, St. George, Utah, October 22, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St George News

“Over the last few months there has been a significant increase in fires involving electric car batteries and smaller lithium batteries,” Stoker said.

This increase points to an ongoing problem with electric vehicle fires, which has sparked a national debate about the risk to first responders and those on scene.

The debate began around 2011 when a Chevy Volt burst into flames during a test drive. The problem resurfaced around 2017 as EVs became more common on US roads.

Last April, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into more than 138,000 vehicles with batteries manufactured by South Korea’s LG Energy Solution.

The investigation was launched after five major automakers recalled the vehicles because the batteries weren’t working properly, causing fires and stalling.

On January 13, 2021, the safety agency announced in a press release that lithium-ion batteries pose hazards to first responders.

“The risks of electrocution and battery re-ignition/fire arise from the ‘stranded’ energy remaining in a damaged battery,” the press release reads.

New recommendations from state and national safety organizations suggest allowing the vehicle to continue burning while preventing the fire from spreading to nearby objects and locations.

“There is still a lot of training and research, and there are various recommendations on how to put out a fire in an electric vehicle,” Stoker said. “Tesla says their recommendation is to use large amounts of water, with a recommendation of 3,000 to 8,000 gallons of water applied directly to the battery.”

Tesla representatives and the Vehicle Safety Guide advise flushing the battery with water for at least 30 minutes after the fire is out and monitoring it for 24 hours.

FILE: Electric car fires have created ‘new’ problems for first responders, St. George, Utah, July 29, 2022 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St George News

“However, we’ve found recently that we’ve used 30,000 to 60,000 gallons of water to put out a fire in an electric vehicle,” he said.

This presents a “new problem” for the firefighters since their unit is carrying 75,000 gallons of water. And the fire brigade has to call for help from other units.

On November 1, St. George firefighters were dispatched to an electric scooter, which was charged and detonated. The owner of the scooter told firefighters he sprayed the fire with a fire extinguisher. However, the fire increased in intensity instead of going out.

“The extinguisher is generally used for the initial or starting point of the fire,” Stoker said, adding that most extinguishers use a dry chemical to deoxygenate the fire, but it doesn’t cool the fire.

He said the problem they are finding is that lithium-ion electric batteries get extremely hot, meaning that if the chemical dissolves, oxygen will return and could reignite the fire.

Tesla also recommends not using “foam” or “immersing” the vehicle.

In addition to the November 1 fire, another October 13 fire involved an electric bicycle being charged in an over 55 community on Dixie Downs Road. The battery overheated and caused a fire.

Stoker said many small battery fires could have been prevented with precautionary measures.

For small batteries contained in items like e-bikes, scooters and remote control cars, he said never leave them unattended. Charge them in places like the garage or outdoors away from flammable objects like carpets, which has been a problem in recent reported fires that have charged batteries or objects on the carpet.

The afterimage of electric lithium batteries at the scene of an electric scooter fire, St. George, Utah, November 1, 2022 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St George News

The loading area should also be in a well-ventilated area away from combustibles, he said.

If the burning item is connected to the wall, it is best to turn off the breaker for the outlet, and then use water for the fire.

“If there are any questions, the best thing to do is get out of the house and call 911,” Stoker said.

Regarding fires in electric vehicles, Stoker said everyone should get out of the vehicle and keep adequate distance, as other features in the vehicle, such as airbags, can explode.

“Don’t go back for anything like a cell phone,” he added.

Once you are away from the vehicle and safe from oncoming traffic, call 911.

“What helps us is if they tell us what kind of fire it is, for example if it’s an electric vehicle that’s on fire,” he said. “Then we can get the support and resources we need.”

All electric and hybrid cars come with manuals with designated sections of fire guidelines. According to Stoker, operators should review these guidelines because electric batteries are a new issue with different recommendations.

“It’s not a normal fire,” he said.

photo gallery

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, All Rights Reserved.

Leave a Comment