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Electric car batteries can catch fire days after an accident

Aleanna Siacon, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

The response is needed, he said, because the batteries need to be cooled to keep them from re-igniting.

"You don't want to mix water and batteries, but unfortunately this is where you got to go," Macias said.

Cummins said that while the hazards involved in responding to an electric vehicle aren't dissimilar to an ordinary car fire, these batteries pose a unique challenge.

"The one marked difference would be that if the batteries are involved, some metals in the batteries may react violently with water," Cummins said.

In Detroit, all the city's fire engines carry at least 500 gallons of water and will hook up to hydrants for more -- plenty to tackle lithium-ion batteries, Green said.

Paul Wells, interim fire chief for the city of Birmingham, agreed that "full protective gear and copious amounts of water" are part of the protocol for electric car fires, but added that it's important to understand that "every car is a little different."


What's important, Wells said, is to fight any car fires from a safe distance and to "take extreme caution" with any electric hazards.

Bloomfield Township Assistant Fire Chief John LeRoy agreed, noting that "with electric vehicles, the fire may start days after an accident if damage has occurred to the battery or the battery casing."

He added that electric vehicles involved in accidents should be kept 50 feet away from any buildings or other vehicles after an accident.

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