A white Tesla Model S was sitting in a Rancho Cordova, Calif., wrecking yard earlier this month — having been severely damaged in a collision three weeks earlier — when it suddenly erupted in flames, according to the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.
When firefighters arrived, the electric car was engulfed. Every time the blaze was momentarily extinguished, the car’s battery compartment reignited, the fire department wrote in an Instagram post. Firefighters and wrecking yard workers tried turning the car on its side to aim water directly onto the battery pack. But “the vehicle would still re-ignite due to the residual heat,” the department wrote.
So they tried something else: They used a tractor to create a pit in the dirt, managed to get the car inside, then filled the hole with water. That allowed the firefighters to submerge the battery pack and ultimately extinguish the fire, which burned hotter than 3,000 degrees, Capt. Parker Wilbourn, a fire department spokesman, told The Washington Post.
All told, it took more than an hour and 4,500 gallons of water for the dozen firefighters to extinguish the blaze, Wilbourn said — about the same amount of water used to put out a building fire.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.
The department has not yet determined why the electric vehicle “spontaneously caught fire,” Wilbourn told The Post. He said it was the first time his department, which serves Sacramento County, has extinguished a Tesla blaze.
But the department is preparing to battle more of them, Wilbourn noted, especially as an increasing number of electric vehicle owners install battery charging equipment in their garages.
“This is a whole new animal for the fire service,” Wilbourn said. “We’re still trying to wrap our heads around the [electric vehicle] fires.”