Madison Fire works on training for electric car fires

The Madison Fire Department is responding to the rise in electric vehicle fires by providing extra training to their firefighters.
Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 10:28 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - More electric cars are hitting roads across the country, but as the number of electric vehicles rises, so does the prevalence of electric car fires due to a crash or some type of accident, prompting fire departments like Madison’s to invest time into building training for its firefighters.

“Electric vehicles pose a bit of a different hazard,” said Madison firefighter Cameron Gasaway.

Gasaway has been researching the topic of lithium-ion battery-powered device fires for the past year, developing ways to train for a fire that is more of a challenge to douse.

“A regular car, fully involved, would take less than 500 gallons of water, which is what we have on our apparatus, and reports of electric vehicle fires, depending on how involved they are, can be anywhere from a thousand to tens of thousands of gallons,” said Gasaway.

Gasaway says the components in the car battery can burn for up to 72 hours, and the placement in the car makes them incredibly difficult to access to stop the fire. The amount of water is also problematic because when addressing a crash on a highway, away from fire hydrants. The other concern is E-Bikes and scooters, which are becoming far cheaper to acquire, and can create dangerous home fires as they charge.

In a sobering video from Gray Television’s National Investigative Team, it shows an electric car at a home on fire.

Gray Television's National Investigative Team shared this video, showing an electric car at a...
Gray Television's National Investigative Team shared this video, showing an electric car at a home on fire.(Gray TV)

“These devices are becoming more, and more of an issue as these devices get cheaper and get manufactured in places that don’t do regular testing on their battery processes,” said Gasaway.

Because not everyone is testing the same way, such other modes of electric transportation can have problems while charging, starting a fire. He suggests only buying scooters and bikes that have been “Underwriters Laboratory” tested and will bear a UL Labs sticker. As for the vehicles, Gasaway hopes to start implementing training early next year, informing firefighters how to get access to batteries to try and get fires out more efficiently. He adds that new tech could help departments across the country at some point in the future.

“There’s a company now that’s using a portable dumpster-looking thing; you essentially pull it up to the vehicle on fire, have a tow truck push it in, seal it up and essentially flood the thing,” said Gasaway. “There are also some other companies in the early stages of developing devices that pierce through the bottom into the battery pack and then distribute the water in the battery pack.”

According to Automotive News, the number of electric vehicle registrations in the U.S. rose by 60% at the start of 2022. The New York Fire Department reports over 250 fires and six deaths attributed to lithium-ion battery device fires.

Click here to download the NBC15 News app or our NBC15 First Alert weather app.