On October 29, the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company was pleased to host an electric vehicle firefighting training session for company members and crews from the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. Industry expert Robert Swaim, a former National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident investigator from Damascus, Maryland, presented the unique challenges associated with fighting fires in electric vehicles. Swaim presented a technical overview, detailing electric vehicle construction and battery technology, and shared case histories of notable electric vehicle fires.
Tesla of Baltimore provided a Model X for the training and Swaim brought a Chevrolet Volt, so that firefighters could see firsthand how the cars and batteries are constructed.
Fires in electric vehicles are rare, but when they occur, they can be difficult to extinguish. Some electric vehicle batteries are a collection of small batteries known as cells. Some cars have 8,200 lithium ion cells to power the wheels. If these batteries become involved in a fire, the blaze can require large quantities of water to extinguish, sometimes as much water as is carried in several tanker trucks. Ordinary fire extinguishers are not effective on electric vehicle lithium ion batteries.
Dave Crawford, chief of Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company, said the training was especially important, as the percentage of electric vehicles has grown rapidly in Anne Arundel County.
“This information is very valuable for us when we respond to car accidents or fires,” he said. “Fighting a fire involving an array of lithium-ion batteries isn’t the same as fighting a fire in a traditional vehicle. The information that Mr. Swaim shared is cutting edge - not many fire departments have had this type of training.
“We really appreciate the support from Mr. Swaim and Tesla of Baltimore,” Crawford added. “We’re fortunate to be ahead of the curve on this technology. This session was another in a series of specialized trainings that we have held to gain new knowledge and skills to keep our community safer.”
Earleigh Heights responds to more than 3,600 emergency calls every year. For more than a century, the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company has provided the facilities, staffing, fire trucks, rescue squads, emergency vehicles and equipment needed to protect and serve our community.