Around New England

Electric Car Fires Hard To Put Out, and Sometimes They Reignite, Boston Fire Official Says

January 31, 2023

Battery fires in electric vehicles are extraordinarily hard to deal with, the leader of the Boston Fire Department said.

Paul Burke, Boston’s fire commissioner, addressed electric vehicles and electric bicycles after a city councilor, Liz Breadon, asked him if he was aware of a method used in Newton for immobilizing electric vehicles after they’re involved in a collision.

“That’s very interesting, because we’re torn on how to put these fires out. They last forever, they’re dangerous. They tie up a highway or a roadway because we have to put so much amount of water on the batteries. We’re told that there’s no extinguishing substance that will put them out other than water,” Burke said.

Electric bikes are also a problem, he said.

“The electric bikes are a big deal. They take them inside buildings, they plug them in, they overheat. … What we understand is that they should be unplugged after they’re fully charged. If they’re not, the energy keeps on building up in them, and they cause a fire. And depending on where it is in the building, if it’s a combustible building, you’re going to have a lot of problems, a lot of fires,” Burke said.

Burke addressed the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the Boston City Council on Thursday, January 26.

Breadon noted that electric vehicles and electric bikes are likely to become more common.

“We look at things like that differently. We look at them as a hazard, not a luxury. What do we do with these batteries? What happens when they catch on fire? Where do you dispose of them? So the cars, if they catch on fire, they reignite. So you take it on a tow truck, bring it to a tow yard, and it reignites in the tow yard. And then you have a major fire in the tow yard, with gas vehicles and everything else,” Burke said.


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