Fires in electric vehicles are rare.  But when they happen, they come with unique challenges for firefighters. 

Radio dispatcher: “Motor vehicle accident, the electric vehicle’s on fire.”

Firefighters are sounding the alarm about the unusual dangers of electric vehicle fires.  

“It’s quite a bit hotter. 2,000 degrees plus. It’s like a jet flame underneath the vehicle – it’s not like a traditional car fire,” Wakefield’s Provisional Fire Chief Thomas Purcell said.

This electric car ignited in Wakefield. The car’s lithium battery was punctured in a crash and caught fire. Crews struggled for two hours to put the flames out.  

“We would shut the lines down intermittently, the fire would reignite,” Purcell said.

Chief Purcell said it took crews from six towns using 20-thousand gallons of water. Putting out a traditional car fire only takes about 150 gallons.  

“Copius amounts of water, but you have to get it directed to the battery pack. We did the best we could with what we had,” Purcell said.

Even after firefighters put out an electric car fire there’s a real danger the battery will spark up again. 

That’s what happened with this vehicle in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Days after igniting in a crash it burst into flames again in a tow yard.

“This thing was flaring up like crazy,” the tow yard owner, Robert Ruggiero said.

“It was a 6 to 8 hour operation the second time that vehicle caught fire,” Nashua Deputy Fire Chief Mark Wholey said.

There is special equipment to help in this new kind of firefight.

A thermal imaging camera like this one helps crews pinpoint the hottest spots so they know where the water is needed most. And new technology like this special fire nozzle is designed to spray water underneath the car.  That’s where hot spots occur most during EV fires.

But, the fire nozzles cost thousands of dollars.  Many fire departments in our area don’t have the resources to make all these purchases right now.  

“This is all technology that hasn’t hit the market widespread.

We’re a little behind the 8-ball, but we’re getting there,” Wholey said.

As more EV’s hit the road… many firefighters are hoping for more specialized training.

The National Fire Protection Association provides online courses at this link–

And several state fire officials in New England tell us they are now ramping up hands-on EV fire training.

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