STAMFORD, CT – A fire officials say stemmed from the vehicle battery of a Tesla earlier in September reportedly took 40 minutes with the aid of over 25,000 gallons of water to extinguish in a restaurant parking lot in Stamford, adding to the growing concern around lithium battery fires and the difficulties associated with getting them under control.
According to a press release from the Stamford Fire Department, fire fighters responded to reports a vehicular fire at the parking area behind the Blue Ginger Restaurant located at 1132 E. Main Street at approximately 11:18 a.m. on September 15th.
Upon the arrival of firefighters, it was determined quickly that “the vehicle on fire was a battery-powered Tesla,” which was far enough away from other vehicles in the parking area so that it “posed no immediate danger to them.”
Firefighters employed three hoses to tackle the battery fire “delivering a total of 600 gallons per minute,” according to officials, where firefighters “continued pouring water onto the fire for 40 minutes before they were able to declare the fire extinguished.”
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Stamford Fire Department Deputy Chief Eric Lorenz commented on the complexities associated with extinguishing these particular fires, saying, “A normal car fire usually requires no more than a single hose line. But we know from other Fire Departments’ experiences that large amounts of water are the only solution when compared to a traditional vehicle fire.”
While claims have circulated online over the years that water is an ineffective means at combatting lithium battery fires, studies conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration found that “water was effective at extinguishing burning electrolyte from lithium-ion cells as well as stopping the propagation of thermal runaway.”
But the underlying issue with these lithium battery fires is that when they occur, they’re extremely difficult to tame and pose risks even after being fully extinguished, according to a report from CNBC.
CNBC contributors Andrew Evers and Lora Kolodny noted in a report from this past January that although “electric vehicles have just a .03% chance of igniting, compared to internal combustion engine vehicle’s 1.5% chance,” the lithium battery fires wind up burning “hotter, faster and require far more water to reach final extinguishment.”
One of these complicating factors around putting out a lithium battery fire is that “batteries can re-ignite hours or even days after the fire is initially controlled, leaving salvage yards, repair shops and others at risk,” according to the report.
Pennsylvania’s Lower Merion Fire Department Chief Chas McGarvey detailed a 2021 fire his department handled involving a Tesla Model S Plaid that wound up burning so hot that the fire literally melted a portion of the roadway underneath it.
In a March report featured in Forbes, Chief Technology Officer Richard Billyeald from Britain’s Thatcham Research concurred that while electric vehicle fires currently appear to be rare, he cautioned “that the usable data only goes back five years and even now the number of EVs on the roads still represents a very small sample size.”