Rio Vista firefighters douse electric car battery fire


(Photo courtesy Rio Vista Fire Department, Graphic by Solano NewsNet)

Firefighters in Rio Vista knocked down a blaze that was contained to an electric vehicle in the city on Monday.

The fire broke out around 2:30 p.m. in the area of Crescent Drive and Logan Street, according to fire dispatches.

The blaze was initially reported as a vehicle fire involving a BMW sedan that was on the back of a trailer. The fire was centered around the electric sedan's battery compartment, which is larger than traditional gas-powered vehicles.

A hazardous material (HAZMAT) situation was declared because the fire involved the car's battery, but firefighters were able to contain the danger to the car itself and quickly knocked down the blaze.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear as of Tuesday evening.


Experts say electric cars have a lower chance of catching fire compared to vehicles with an internal combustion engine, but when electric cars do ignite, the flames can be harder to fight. The lithium-ion batteries used by electric vehicles burn much hotter than components inside traditional gas-powered cars, and the batteries can reignite even after a fire is initially knocked down.

Such was the case in June when the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department was called out to a junkyard where the battery compartment of a Tesla vehicle ignited weeks after it was involved in a collision.

Fire officials said the battery compartment of the Tesla kept re-igniting, with the fire reaching 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Eventually, firefighters built a water pit near the fire, then nudged the car into the pit, which finally extinguished the blaze.

Last year, a fire involving an electric vehicle burned so hot that it melted a patch of roadway in Pennsylvania, according to a local fire chief there.

After reports of dangerous fires involving some lithium-ion car batteries, manufacturers like Tesla and Ford announced they were switching to lithium iron phosphate, or LFP, batteries for use in future vehicles. Those batteries are believed to be much safer than lithium-ion batteries, and some chemistry experts believe their safety could surpass that of gas-powered vehicles in just a matter of years.

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