Fire Department Puts Out Burning Tesla Model S Using 6,000 Gallons of Water

A Tesla Model S that was cruising down a highway in California on 29 January caught fire suddenly and for no apparent reason. The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department responded to the emergency and the crew used jacks to lift one side of the vehicle, the only way to access the encased battery. In a Tweet, the Fire Department claimed that they used approximately 6,000 gallons of water to put out the fire. A “normal” car fire requires only 500 to 1,000 gallons to extinguish.

Even though car battery fires seem to make the news more often and with glaring headlines, they are statistically not more frequent, even less likely, than an ICE vehicle catching fire. They are, however, much harder to put out with conventional methods. Tesla apparently recommends using, and this writer is paraphrasing, a lot a lot of water directly onto the battery, to fully extinguish and cool down battery fire. The Sacramento Fire Department must have gotten the memo.

Even though they managed to put the fire out in the end, the reality is that as more and more EVs hit public roads, fire departments have to develop more efficient methods and strategies to put out battery fires. Firefighters in the Netherlands once dunked an entire BMW i8 that was emitting smoke into a giant container filled with water to cool the battery off, but that is certainly not efficient nor practical when there are frequent battery fires to put out starting some day soon.

And in case you have forgotten, thousands of luxury cars, the likes of Porsches and Bentleys, were once left to burn on a ship and sink together with it when one of the electric cars being transported caught fire and the fire suppression system was not designed to put out Li-ion battery fires, as most aren’t.

Now, with a small Li-ion battery, it is more effective to use some kind of dry chemical fire suppressant. In fact, adding water might make it worse because lithium reacts with H2O to create flammable gasses (hydrogen and oxygen, hello).

The best thing to do for now, at least until someone smart thinks of something better, is to simply step back from the fire, do nothing and let the battery burn out.

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