Over 36,000 gallons of water used for electric vehicle fire on I-65 – WSFA

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AUTAUGA COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) – An electric vehicle crashed and caught fire Monday night in Autauga County.
According to the Pine Level Fire Department, units were called to a traffic accident with a vehicle fire around 11:15 p.m.
At the scene, firefighters found a Tesla Model Y in flames. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency was already on the scene and had closed the interstate.
The driver was uninjured and had escaped the vehicle before the fire department arrived, officials say.
ALEA identified the driver as 33-year-old Michael Sherrill, a Georgia resident. Sherrill was arrested and taken to the Autauga County jail. He is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and is being held on $5,000 bail.
Firefighters say due to the thermal runaway of the Tesla’s battery, the fire required over 36,000 gallons of water before it was brought under control in a little over an hour.
Pine Level Fire Chief Austin Worcester said a typical car fire can take between 300 to 1,000 gallons to put out, depending on how advanced the vehicle is. He said the extra water needed in this case was “typical of an electric vehicle fire.”
There is technology that can help reduce the amount of water needed to put out an electric car fire, but the chief said it is too expensive for the volunteer fire department.
“The device that Montgomery fire department has is about $35,000. That’s over a third of my budget each year. And that’s just undoable for us right now,” he said.
Worcester discussed the lithium batteries such vehicles use, saying they can be damaged and emit toxic gases that can produce acid in the lungs.
“They can re-ignite hours, even days later. And the lithium produces toxic gases,” he said.
Multiple fire departments and law enforcement agencies, including the Autauga County Sheriff’s Office, also responded to the scene.
Officials say a fire of this kind was a first for Autauga County, but Worcester said he worries that the increased use of electric vehicles could lead to more fires like this one.
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