Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Fires

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Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Fires


Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement, Fire & Rescue, and EMS

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol.  

Today’s Tip is for my friends in law enforcement, the fire service, and EMS. Today I want to talk about hybrid and electric vehicle fires. It’s no secret that hybrid and electric vehicle ownership is on the rise. In the U.S. alone, almost 200,000 of these vehicles were sold in 2017. This was a 26% increase from 2016, and the trend is expected to continue.  

In the chaos of a crash scene, these vehicles can be difficult to identify. The best approach is to treat all vehicles as if they are energized.

Why does this matter? Because this increase in hybrid and electric vehicle sales means first responders are more likely to encounter one on the job. In the chaos of a crash scene, these vehicles can be difficult to identify. The best approach is to treat all vehicles as if they are energized.  

It may be a standard procedure to immobilize and disable the involved vehicles. However, the quiet running motors in hybrid and electric vehicles make it difficult to tell if they are running or not. Here are some tips to help you stay safe.  

Always approach the vehicle from the side in case it starts to roll. 

Attempt to turn off the ignition or disconnect the 12-volt battery.  

This next point cannot be stressed enough. When attempting to disable a vehicle or extricate a victim, NEVER cut an orange cable. I repeat, never cut an orange cable. Doing so may cause burns or a potentially deadly shock. This cable is often found in the front or rear of a vehicle or running behind the side panels. It powers the high voltage batteries.  

After victims are removed from the scene, you can begin a defensive attack on the fire. Electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries. Once these batteries catch fire, they cannot be put out with a regular extinguisher. Copious amounts of water are recommended as the best means to extinguish a high voltage vehicle fire. Even once extinguished, the fire may reignite multiple times. Another option is to let the fire burn itself out. This may take up to 24 hours. 

Follow these precautions and stay safe when responding to electric and hybrid vehicle fires.  

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off. 

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