Representatives of the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department have been making the rounds explaining to both the Lake of Bays and Huntsville councils the challenge they’re facing with Lithium-ion batteries if they become unstable.
According to a report presented to Huntsville Council at its General Committee meeting on May 24 by Deputy Fire Chief Paul Calleja, when the battery becomes unstable it is referred to as a ‘thermal run a way.’ “This is an internal short circuit and is a violent chemical reaction that takes place causing the battery cell to rupture.” When that happens, it can involve extremely high temperatures, gas, particulates, and/or shrapnel as well as smoke and fire.
Calleja explained that it takes an enormous amount of water to put out an electric vehicle fire.
“To help put into context, consider the following:
• A vehicle fire with a fuel driven engine requires approximately 2,000L (500G) – 4,000L (1,000G) of water and takes on average 1 ½ hours to extinguish.
• A vehicle fire involving an Electric Vehicle (EV) where the batteries experience Thermal Run a Way will require approximately 12,000L (3,000G) – 16,000L (4,000G) of water and can take up to 4 hours to extinguish.”
According to Calleja’s report: “A realistic consideration is to let the cell burn itself out and not apply water directly to it. Fire control measures can still take place with existing materials in the proximity of the battery cells to help prevent fire spread.”
Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Chief Gary Monahan said the department will be rolling out an educational campaign to explain the issue.
“In the event that we get a fire of an electric vehicle on the highway and the fire department is not putting water on it. Social media… might kind of rake us through the coals because we’re not fighting that fire,” he said. “So the idea was, ‘there’s reasons why we’re not doing this and we can explain why we’re not fighting that fire. If it happened, we’re not going to risk running people up and down the highway with tankers on something like that. We’re just going to let it burn. It’s a car,” noted Monahan.
According to Calleja’s report, in the past six months fire response services have experienced four incidents as a result of a lithium battery or an incident where one was involved. He noted education involving safety is important.
You can read Calleja’s report HERE.
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