A Tesla Model S caught fire earlier this week in a parking lot in Los Gatos, California. It then reignited a few hours later after it had been brought to a tow yard.
On Tuesday, a silver Model S first caught fire in the afternoon at a tire and auto repair shop in Los Gatos, said the Santa Clara County Fire Department, according to NBC Bay Area. Thankfully, there were no injuries. The car wasn’t involved in a crash and there was no work being performed on it, officials said.
The owner was driving when he got a low tire pressure warning, reports ABC 7. He had the car towed to a tire shop when he and someone working there then heard a hissing sound coming from the Model S before it caught fire soon after, according to NBC. The entire front of the Tesla was burned, but the building sustained no damage.
Because of the nature of the lithium ion batteries used in the Model S, for which Tesla publishes an emergency response guide, the fire crew needed to stay at the scene and observe to make sure the batteries didn’t reignite after the initial flames were put out.
The fire department spoke with Tesla on the phone and made the decision to move the car to a tow yard in Campbell after six hours, according to a clip uploaded to the KPIX CBS SF Bay Area YouTube channel.
After the car was taken to a tow yard, however, it reignited there. The video shows the Model S on fire as responders spray it with “several thousand gallons of water” in an attempt to put out the fire.
The car’s owner, who didn’t want to be identified, told KPIX, “This car had been in my house today. And if we had gone on vacation or something and the car suddenly catches fire, then suddenly the whole house can burn down. So yeah, I’m certainly worried. My wife certainly doesn’t want me getting another Tesla.”
It is unclear what caused either of the fires. A Tesla spokesperson told NBC that the company is currently investigating the fire. “We are glad to hear that everyone is safe,” they told NBC.
Yet, a Tesla catching on fire like that is apparently not very common, according to NBC:
A Tesla catching fire is rare, according to fire officials, and the the National Fire Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agree that drivers are five times more likely to experience a car fire in a gas-powered vehicle than in an electric vehicle.
If they do though, Tesla recommends emergency responders to wear self-contained breathing apparatuses because on-fire lithium-ion batteries release “toxic vapors” like “sulfuric acid, oxides of carbon, nickel, lithium, copper and cobalt.”
After that, it’s also recommended that the car be put in “quarantine” for 48 hours, just in case of a new fire.
It’s good that the fire department was able to put the flames out and that nobody was injured. Can you imagine if something like that happened in, say, an underground tunnel with no easy exits and no way for emergency responders to easily reach the vehicle?
We have reached out to Tesla for comment on the story and will update if we hear back. Additionally, we have also reached out to the Boring Company and asked it how it plans on dealing with the possibility of fires in the tunnel.
Update 10:57 a.m. EST: A Tesla spokesperson provided us with comment from its first responder guides:
Battery fires can take up to 24 hours to extinguish. Consider allowing the battery to burn while protecting exposures.
After all fire and smoke has visibly subsided, a thermal imaging camera can be used to actively measure the temperature of the high voltage battery and monitor the trend of heating or cooling. There must not be fire, smoke, or heating present in the high voltage battery for at least one hour before the vehicle can be released to second responders (such as law enforcement, vehicle transporters, etc.). The battery must be completely cooled before releasing the vehicle to second responders or otherwise leaving the incident. Always advise second responders that there is a risk of battery re-ignition.
Due to potential re-ignition, a Model S that has been involved in a submersion, fire, or a collision that has compromised the high voltage battery should be stored in an open area at least 50 ft (15 m) from any exposure