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Firefighters Concerned About EV Fires

January 22, 2023

By Paul Homewood



This is the press release from the Wakefield Fire Dept:.


WAKEFIELD — Provisional Fire Chief Tom Purcell reports that the Wakefield Fire Department and mutual aid partners responded to a single-vehicle crash and electric vehicle fire on Interstate 95 on Thursday night.

On Thursday, Jan. 19, at about 10:47 p.m., the Wakefield Fire Department and Massachusetts State Police responded to a single-vehicle crash in the northbound lanes of I-95 near Exit 59.

Upon arrival, companies led by Capt. John Walsh, found a Tesla electric vehicle wedged onto the guardrail in the right breakdown lane. The 38-year-old driver of the vehicle declined medical attention at the scene.

As the vehicle was being prepared for removal from the scene, the guardrail pieced the undercarriage, causing the lithium-ion batteries to go into a thermal runaway. The vehicle became fully involved in fire.

A full box alarm assignment was ordered per Shift Command, and a Lynnfield engine company was called to the scene as well. Wakefield Engine 1 and Ladder 1 initiated suppression operations, applying copious amounts of water onto the vehicle.

Multiple surrounding mutual aid communities responded as well to support firefighting operations and to create a water shuttle to bring water continually to the scene. Engines from Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Lynnfield as well as a Middleton water tanker assisted.

Firefighters had three 1 3/4inch hand lines as well as a “blitz gun” in operation to cool the battery compartment.

Provisional Chief Thomas Purcell arrived and assumed overall command of the incident with Capt. Walsh handling fire ground operations. Lynnfield Fire Chief Glenn Davis was also on scene as Lynnfield crews established a continuous 4-inch supply line from Vernon Street up to the highway.

The fire was declared under control and fully extinguished after about 2 1/2 hours. More than 20,000 gallons of water were used.

A Department of Fire Services Hazmat Team responded and the Department of Environmental Protection was notified. The vehicle was removed from the scene after consulting with the Hazmat Unit.

The Saugus Fire Department’s Engine 1 covered Wakefield fire headquarters during the incident. Massachusetts State Police controlled traffic, with flow diverted to one lane in a driving snow storm at the height of operations.

“As sales of electric and hybrid vehicles increase, the fire service is continuing to modify our tactics to properly respond, protect property and firefighters as well as control these types of fires,” said Provisional Chief Purcell. “Fighting vehicle fires is inherently dangerous. When responding to an electric or hybrid vehicle fire there are additional challenges responding crews must consider. Fire companies on the scene of an electrical vehicle fire should expect longer time frames to manage and control EV vehicle fires, ensure that large, continuous, sustainable water supply is established, as well as maintain heightened situational awareness and prepare for secondary fires.

“The crews did a great job, especially in the middle of storm conditions – on a busy highway.  All responding mutual aid companies from the surrounding communities that assisted were fantastic and greatly helped the Wakefield Fire Department in controlling the incident.”

  1. Stephen Lord permalink
    January 22, 2023 6:42 am

    Lithium reacts with water to make hydrogen which can then burn or accumulate and explode.

  2. January 22, 2023 7:31 am

    I thought these batteries released toxic smoke when they went into thermal overload

    • catweazle666 permalink
      January 22, 2023 3:26 pm

      That too.

  3. JBW permalink
    January 22, 2023 7:40 am

    Bedfordshire fire service has an article on its website here.

    • Tonyb permalink
      January 22, 2023 10:18 am

      Norwegian ferry firms bans EV’s on its ferries

      So lets recap;

      Ev’s are highly unethical-rare earths, child slavery etc
      They are hugely expensive
      They don’t work nearly as well as the cars they replace
      There is a huge problem if they catch fire
      We don’t have enough electric to power them
      They freeload on the road infrastructure as they don’t pay a fraction of the taxes grown up vehicles do

      Hmmm. Its good we have got an elite that can see past these trifling problems to the sunlit uplands beyond.

    • lordelate permalink
      January 22, 2023 11:13 am

      I see they(bedford fire and rescue) even magage to work climate change into that aticle.

    • Joe Public permalink
      January 22, 2023 1:48 pm


  4. Tim Leeney permalink
    January 22, 2023 7:45 am

    There must be a better way than pouring water onto hot lithium. Smothering with dry sand comes to mind. In any case, best practice has to be identified and all firefighters provided with the knowledge and the necessary equipment.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      January 22, 2023 11:21 am

      Or just scrap the stupid ‘electric’ ( coal fired ) cars.

      • Janice Moore permalink
        January 22, 2023 9:20 pm


  5. Douglas Dragonfly permalink
    January 22, 2023 7:56 am

    Yes these lithium bases fires are becoming a real issue.
    Whilst they are proving a problem to the fire brigade out in the open, there is cause for concern about in-door fires as well.
    Many ebikes and escooters are home made. Many are fine but unfortunately some are not.
    The fire reported here (see link) started on the 15th floor of a tower block. Due to the risk of theft and needing an electricity supply the bike be taken inside. Home made, used for food delivery around the city. Cheap but not cheerful. Whilst on charge it burst into flames.
    Resulting in one man falling to his death trying to escape, damage to property and the knock on effect of 24/7 waking watch in many tower blocks due to their cladding.
    One certain death, many scared, millions of pounds spent and many more yet to be spent.
    Electric bikes are great if people know what they are doing.
    The London fire brigade have concerns surrounding scooters.
    Scale all this up to cars and buses then we bring hell on earth, direct to our roads and neighborhoods.
    And for what ? Electricity still needs generating and as we know renewables are severely lacking.
    Bristol: Man killed in flats fire thought to have fallen – BBC News”

  6. Steve Smith permalink
    January 22, 2023 8:07 am

    ‘Lithium ion’ vehicle batteries do not contain metallic lithium. Lithium is present (usually) as the carbonate. EV fires usually result from the ignition of the organic electrolyte contained with the cells.
    It is the burning electrolyte that is difficult to extinguish…

    • January 23, 2023 8:41 am

      Some simple chemistry for you.
      Metals, like Li and Al for example can be both in a pure state, (metal), or as an oxide. In the oxide, the element could be considered to have lost it’s potential to give up any more chemical energy. In it’s pure form, it could be considered ready to provide it’s maximum chemical energy.

      When you have a charged battery, (unless faulty), there should be no elemental metal present. However, the Li is available as an ion, in a graphite matrix. The Li is at a very high potential energy point and can therefore provide lots of chemical energy, not unlike elemental metal.

      When discharged, the ions are in a low chemical energy state and would not provide much chemical energy to a fire. The only thing left to burn in a falt battery is the flammable electrolyte.

      In summary a flat Li ion battery will burn, but at a relatively low rate due to only the electrolyte being involved. A fully charged battery will release, (due to heating), the Li and it will react, providing almost as much chemical energy as pure metal. The electrolyte in a charged battery is also consumed in the fire.

      So yes, no pure metal is present, but it may as well be when it comes to the energy released in a fire.

  7. Malcolm permalink
    January 22, 2023 8:12 am

    I have long worried about these things.

    Surely pouring water onto very high voltage batteries will kill people? Lithium and water can be dangerous and what is the health risk from the smoke, lots of chemical mixtures in there. Are crashed EVs even electrically safe to touch?

    • frankobaysio permalink
      January 22, 2023 8:56 pm

      Electric cars are not safe electrically if the large amperage of current gets into the vehicle structure. A Tesla EV crash in Holland a couple of years ago which killed the driver, and was not able to be touched by the Fire Service for some hours until the Tesla engineers arrived. During a Championship Motor Race at Spa last year 2022, a Hybrid GT Sports car broke down, the driver was radioed to stay in the car, shoo marshals away, and when safe to do so, jump off the car as high as possible, as if he earthed the leaking current to the ground he would likely die. The formula E championship races which are very close and exciting racing, have specially equipped rescue services. They have a large thick rubber blanket with a hole in the centre which they place over an unconscious driver and the personnel are dressed in rubber suits and gloves. The Public I would suggest are completely unaware of this problem. When I wrote to my MP early last year about these issues I got a bland reply from the Ministry of Transport suggesting that the fire Services are capable of handling any issue. Not according to the Bedfordshire Fire Service. They are on a learning curve.

      • Malcolm permalink
        January 23, 2023 8:02 am

        Exactly so Frankobaysio except the danger from the batteries is derived from their high voltage which can penetrate widely and with high amperages. I understand that most EV are about 400v and getting higher. Say more than twice your house voltage in Europe.

      • January 23, 2023 6:54 pm

        Anyone noticed the teaching ad with the female car mechanic wearing rubber gloves and commenting that the vehicle voltage has now dropped to a level where it is safe to work on.

  8. Douglas Dragonfly permalink
    January 22, 2023 8:37 am

    What poisons and toxins are given off when lithium burns ?
    Plastics and aluminiums aside.
    I note in the very first image a firefighter stands by.
    I hope these brave men are trained adequately.
    Following the Glenfell fire many of those attending have been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Knowledge is important.
    It seems training, breathing apparatus and follow up health checks have all been lacking in the fire brigade.
    If lithium is the answer it must be a very stupid question.

  9. January 22, 2023 8:42 am

    Safer LFP batteries are on the rise.

    ‘LFP type production is expected to rise further to surpass NMC type batteries in 2028.’

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      January 22, 2023 9:19 am

      The link says
      The energy density (energy/volume) of a new LFP battery is some 14% lower than that of a new LiCoO
      2 battery.[38] Since discharge rate is a percentage of battery capacity, a higher rate can be achieved by using a larger battery (more ampere hours) if low-current batteries must be used. Better yet, a high-current LFP cell (which will have a higher discharge rate than a lead acid or LiCoO
      2 battery of the same capacity) can be used.

      So it sounds like physically bigger batteries are required for same performance with current versions of the technology. But no Cobalt or Nickel.

  10. Herve permalink
    January 22, 2023 9:05 am

    La batterie type Lithium-metal contient effectivement ce dernier capable de bruler et surtout de liberer d’imposantes vapeurs d’oxyde Li²O très corrosives pour les poumons.
    Dans la batterie Lithium-ion, ce metal reste toujours a l’etat oxydé, pas plus méchant que le sodium contenu massivement dans les savons pour lessive domestique. Par contre, le coupable qui stocke l’energie c’est le Fluor qui va oxyder et detruire tout ce qui le touche dans l’incendie et en plus va liberer de l’acide fluorhydrique gazeux FH qui provoque des brulures irréversibles et dramatiques, mortelles aux poumons.
    De ceci, les propagandistes de l’EV se gardent bien d’en parler….

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      January 22, 2023 10:59 am

      Translation…. “The Lithium-metal type battery actually contains the latter capable of burning and above all of releasing imposing Li²O oxide vapours which are very corrosive for the lungs.
      In the Lithium-ion battery, this metal always remains in an oxidized state, no worse than the sodium contained massively in household laundry soaps. On the other hand, the culprit which stores the energy is the Fluorine which will oxidize and destroy everything that touches it in the fire and in addition will release gaseous hydrofluoric acid FH which causes irreversible and dramatic, fatal burns to the lungs.
      Of this, the propagandists of the EV are careful not to speak about it….”

      • Roy Hartwell permalink
        January 22, 2023 4:07 pm

        In over 40 years working in laboratories, the only acid that REALLY spooked me was hydrofluoric acid. The burns caused by it would continue developing for days, destroying all the tissue underneath. Not nice to be anywhere near it, only safe used inside a fume hood. Bear in mind, hydrofluoric acid is used to etch glass!!

  11. Mr Robert Christopher permalink
    January 22, 2023 9:34 am

    20,000 US Gallons = 99 cubic yards 🙂

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      January 22, 2023 9:58 am

      = 75,708 litres (317 Hogsheads or 645 Beerbarrels ) = ~75 tonnes

  12. mwhite permalink
    January 22, 2023 9:41 am

    Next it’s the sodium battery.

    • Tonyb permalink
      January 22, 2023 10:21 am

      I have this silly idea for a engine that uses Petrol or diesel but it will never catch on…

      • Caro permalink
        January 22, 2023 11:58 am

        Go with it. You know you could even have these places on the roadside where you could fill up with that fuel really quickly.

  13. thecliffclavenoffinance permalink
    January 22, 2023 10:10 am

    A retired firefighter told me he was happy he never had to rescue a cat from a tree, or rescue a fireman from a tree who was trying to rescue a cat, or had to put out an electric vehicle fire. The first two were meant to be funny, but the EV fires were not funny at all. He was thrilled he retired before his first EV fire.

  14. Mikehig permalink
    January 22, 2023 10:19 am

    In Germany (iirc) they have developed a procedure where they bring in a large skip and a special grab crane which drops the car into the skip. Then they fill the skip and keep it topped up while the chemical reactions burn themselves out – which can take more than a day.
    This also reduces the amount of fumes released.
    Not sure what they do if the car is in an underground garage.

    • Tonyb permalink
      January 22, 2023 10:22 am

      I have twice objected to developments near me requiring underground parking with EV points. Interestingly others complained on the same basis.

  15. Ian PRSY permalink
    January 22, 2023 10:55 am

    This is something I’ve pestered my LA about, eg approving planning applications for big battery installations close to housing/busy commercial property, a hotel car park charging station next to a busy junction. They don’t even have the fire dept as a consultee – because they don’t have to!

    Maria Miller has/had a ten minute rule bill on the subject, status not clear at the moment. Link to Beds Fire Dept noted and will pass on.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      January 22, 2023 11:04 am

      Hi Ian, Local Authorities often have no say in the issue. Nigel Sherrat and I have often posted on here about the disaster about to be imposed on East Kent.
      The above abomination is biblically dangerous.

      • Nigel Sherratt permalink
        January 22, 2023 11:49 am

        Thanks Ray, north easterly winds will bring more than cold winds to The Market Town of King’s some day I fear. 2GW (estimated) of solar in the whole National Grid at the moment.

      • Douglas Dragonfly permalink
        January 22, 2023 12:23 pm

        ‘Alok Sharma the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy granted the developers a Development Consent Order (despite near unanimous opposition from both conservation bodies, Swale and Faversham Councils and local residents),’
        What the hell does Sharma know about large scale lithium ?

        Prior to Grenfell their had been Highrise fires. Lakanal House being one in which six people died.
        Shortly after Stephen Williams MP was appointed minister responsible for building safety including material standards.
        The fire at Grenfell killed 72 and more will die as a consequence. There are also continuing costs – extra £ millions as the years go by.
        All this may well of been avoided. He did not heed the fire brigade warnings, nor highly informed and knowledgeable people who knew their field.
        Williams also admitted at the subsequent inquiry that he had not read the coroner’s report following the Lakanal House fire that had just been released.

        Although I write about tower block fires, my point is that these power hunger, greedy most selfish fools – have way too much unwarranted influence and control.
        In the case of ‘Project Fortress’ the government know little about the dangers of large scale lithium batteries. Totally unappropriate. This decision desperately requires a review.
        Lessons should always be learnt by the government ministers where new technologies are involved.

        This is was a warning missed :-
        The London fire brigade has said it hopes “lessons are learned” after a council was fined £570,000 over safety failings at a 14-storey block of flats where six people died in a fire.
        Southwark council fined £570,000 over fatal tower block fire | London | The Guardian”
        Because Grenfell happened just after…

      • Tonyb permalink
        January 22, 2023 5:16 pm


        “It is utterly depressing that while this dangerous, damaging scheme is given permission to be built on one of our natural and beautiful marshes which acts naturally already as a carbon sink, the Government allows literally thousands of new houses to be built on surrounding green field sites with absolutely no requirement for solar panels to be integral to their design and gas central heating installed as standard.”

        The difference being of course that this solar co will make money out of desecrating this marshland but won’t out of new houses nearby.

        Complete insanity and what makes it worse is that the Marsh is already doing a good job in doing what our masters want-storing co2

      • January 23, 2023 7:01 pm

        The original warning for the Grenfell Tower fire came in 1999 in Scotland and some notice was taken of the problems of cladding as the British Standard was amended to include a ‘cladding system’ fire test. But it could not be made mandatory in the Building Regulations as the UK had handed control of them to the EU. The B.Liar government did nothing to raise this issue with the EU to get them amended. Take a bow Two Jags Prescott and his sidekick John McDonnell – yes the very same one who labelled those responsible for Grenfell as murderers.

  16. John Brown permalink
    January 22, 2023 11:09 am

    According to Professor Christensen of Newcastle University the vapour cloud from a runaway Li-ion battery fire can contain hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen chloride and hydrogen cyanide, all very nasty.

    Worse, these batteries do not even have to undergo physical abuse to cause a fire.

    Watch this Australian video of Professor Christensen warning of the dangers :

    Start at 1:01:45

  17. Gamecock permalink
    January 22, 2023 11:26 am

    Externalities of EVs.

    We’re in the joyous phase of implementation, so we don’t have to think about them.


    I think it likely there will eventually be a hazmat fee added to EV registrations. You know road tax fee is coming, too.

    Insurance company actuaries surely have the risk all figured out. I’ll have to ask my Tesla owning friend what he pays for insurance.

  18. coralstrawberrydiomedes8862 permalink
    January 22, 2023 3:30 pm

    Gasoline is much more likely to be a fatal problem

    • catweazle666 permalink
      January 22, 2023 7:25 pm

      In your dreams!

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      January 22, 2023 8:00 pm

      A quick internet search under “coralstrawberrydiomedes8862” reveals you really do post an awful lot of bollocks don’t you? If you really have a point to make try elaborating a bit more and entering into discussion.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        January 22, 2023 8:15 pm

        I think “coralstrawberrydiomedes8862” lives under a bridge, Ray!

  19. Nordisch geo-climber permalink
    January 23, 2023 10:05 am

    It is only a matter of time until electric vehicles are globally banned from all tunnels and ferries (unless it is happening already).

  20. January 23, 2023 1:08 pm

    Fast forward 5,10, 15 years when the majority of vehicles are EV and there is a major pile up during a snowstorm involving hundreds and many of these EVs catch fire. What will happen? Will it be like a domino effect? Wonder what these Fire Chiefs are thinking?

    • January 23, 2023 7:09 pm

      The best advice will be to stand upwind and watch, waiting for it to burn itself out.

    • Gamecock permalink
      January 24, 2023 12:47 am

      “Fast forward 5,10, 15 years when the majority of vehicles are EV”

      Maybe in 2525, if Man is still alive.

  21. W Flood permalink
    January 23, 2023 1:19 pm

    You do not put water on a lithium fire

    • January 23, 2023 7:13 pm

      In the TV series Destroyed In Seconds they once had a fire in a scrapyard, Nobody told the fire crews that it contained titanium. Quite impressive when they turned the firehoses on.

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