As more electric vehicles hit the road, first responders are having to learn how to respond to car fires and the different approaches needed to safely tackle a fire in an electric vehicle.
Riverview fire captain David Candy is teaching firefighters across New Brunswick how to tackle a fire in an electric car.
“The hybrid plug in any electric vehicles, they pose some unique challenges for first responders,” said Candy.
Candy said he started teaching electric car fire safety training in 2016 after his crew responded to an accident involving a hybrid car. It was then he realized they needed to better educate themselves about the new technology.
“We are seeing an increase on the road of these vehicles,” he said, adding that they don’t pose any greater fire risk. “These vehicles are extremely safe. There are a lot of built in safety systems within these vehicles”
But with their high-voltage batteries, he said the cars do burn differently.
Candy said it takes about 2-to-3 hundred gallons of water to put out a fire in a car with a combustion engine, but that an electric car fire can require 10 times more water.
“They could need up to 2,600 gallons of water to put out these high voltage batteries,” he said.
He said the batteries are well hidden and compact, so it takes more time for water to seep into the cells and crews need to be aware that the batteries can reignite up to 24 hours or even several days after the fire.
That’s why crews are taught first and foremost to immobilize and disable the battery system.
Firefighter Jordan Maxwell says he needs familiarize himself with the technology to keep himself, his crew and the people they are trying to rescue safe.
“I want to make sure we are not going to cut in places that we are not supposed to cut, and we want to make sure we can do out job effectively and safely.”