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'They burn extremely hot': Phoenix fire uses different tactics to battle electric vehicle fires

After a crash and car fire involving an electric vehicle in Paradise Valley, Phoenix firefighters said it takes specific training to handle electric car fires.

PHOENIX — On any given call, the likelihood first responders will find an electric vehicle on the streets of Phoenix is going up.

“There are more and more of these electric vehicles on the road, so we have to be more cognizant if it’s a hybrid if it’s an electric vehicle, how we approach it,” Capt. Evan Gammage with Phoenix Fire Department said.

Monday night car crash and fire

It was Monday night in Paradise Valley when the Department of Public Safety said a woman crashed into the other lanes of traffic near McDonald Drive and 47th Street.

DPS said Nicole Baldovino was pronounced dead at the hospital. Another driver was injured, but officials said they had non-life-threatening injuries.

Baldovino’s Tesla caught fire after the crash.

Gammage said Phoenix fire crews worked to put the fire out, but because of the nature of the electric vehicle, it takes specific tactics to fight. Including having crews test the water coming off the fire for hazardous materials to keep hazards from flowing into the water system.

Not your average car fire

Typical gas car fires, Gammage said, are pretty much out and done once firefighters get the flames out.

But, electric vehicle fires present different challenges.

“They burn extremely hot,” Gammage said.

Gammage said not only are the electrical systems running throughout the car that impact how firefighters cut the vehicle or get into the car but the lithium-ion batteries inside the car impact how they approach the scene.

“We have to be more careful, we have to be more calculated,” Gammage said.

Burning hotter and longer

Gammage said the lithium-ion batteries can make fires burn hotter and longer, requiring more water than what may be on one engine at a time.

That’s been seen at one warehouse in North Phoenix that’s caught fire a couple of times in the last few years.

The business repairs electric vehicles and stores a lot of lithium-ion batteries.

“We have to drown the batteries until the batter core itself cools,” Gammage said.

Gammage said cars being parked inside garages with their charging station can also impact house fires too if the garage becomes involved.

“That can definitely feed the fire and obviously burn hot and burn long,” Gammage said.

Gammage said staff has been training for years to handle electric car fires.

Including receiving information directly from the manufacturers about their models that can help them while they’re on the scene.

“We’re always thinking about safety first,” Gammage said.

Gammage recommends owners of electric and hybrid vehicles make sure to get their vehicles serviced on time.

“When you get your vehicle serviced make sure the technician is certified and knowledgeable in electric vehicles,” Gammage said.

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