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SAFETY ALERT: CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis Warns Firefighters of Dangers of Electric Vehicle Fires, Directs Office to Offer Training

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis issued the following safety alert for Florida firefighters and fire service professionals regarding the highly combustible lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles such as in Tesla or Chevrolet Volt vehicles. CFO and State Fire Marshal Patronis directed his office to offer a training course for Florida fire departments to help our first responders better understand how lithium-ion battery fires should be handled.

Although electric batteries aren’t necessarily more prone to fire than gasoline, these kinds of vehicle fires are different from gasoline fires:

• A National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) report on the vehicle accident in Fort Lauderdale involving a Tesla found that the battery reignited in the aftermath of the crash.

• This vehicle crash required 200 to 300 gallons of water and foam to extinguish initially. However, the battery ignited again.

• According to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2017, 16,116 electric vehicles were registered in Florida and 231,015 electric and gas hybrids.

CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said, “New technology helps us live our lives more efficiently, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t understand and tackle the risks that can be associated. In 2017 there were more than 16,000 electric vehicles registered in Florida and more than 231,000 electric/gas hybrids. Our fire departments around the state should be equipped with the latest information on how to best manage electric vehicle fires so that they can do their job safely and effectively.
“It’s important that firefighters and fire service professionals are aware of the following potentially life-saving practices when dealing with electric vehicle fires.”

1. Identify the make and model of vehicle so that they know where the battery is located and how to best shut down the vehicle if possible.
2. Be prepared to use more than just water for electric vehicle fires, and note that fires could also be burning inside one of the protective compartments, invisible to the first responder.

3. Be aware of the possibility that a lithium-ion battery fire could reignite. If not entirely discharged, the stored energy inside the battery could cause a second or even third fire.
4. Keep electric vehicles that have been in an accident away from buildings or other structures because of the possibility of reignition.
5. Understand that electric vehicles are silent and may still be on even if it’s not audible. The voltage from the vehicle could shock a first responder.

6. Always wear self-contained breathing apparatuses when fighting and overhauling a lithium-ion battery fire as some vehicles can emit toxic vapors.
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