Crash, fire involving Tesla in Medina raises questions about electric vehicle safety

Bellevue firefighters responded to a Tesla crash and fire where two individuals were trapped inside, but luckily were able to escape just in time. The Tuesday night incident in Medina has brought renewed attention to electric vehicle (EV) safety.

“These folks were lucky,” said Bellevue Fire Battalion Chief Keith Allen. “Having a car catch on fire is a pretty significant event if you’re the one stuck inside of it.”

Electric vehicles burn longer and more intensely than regular cars, due to their lithium-ion batteries. They’re also harder to extinguish. According to Allen, a typical car fire would require water from a single engine, an estimated 500 gallons. An electrical fire could need 6,000 gallons or more.

The Seattle Fire Department has recently launched a new unit called the Energy Response Team to combat these types of electrical fires.

As of 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that more than 66,000 EVs were registered in Washington, making it the fourth highest amount of EVs in the nation. With more people buying EVs, there is a growing need for specialized services to fight electrical fires.

Seeing the need, car manufacturers are stepping in to provide additional training for local fire departments. A few weeks ago, Bellevue firefighters went to Seattle for a training hosted by General Motors.

“So we’re constantly searching and researching how to handle these hazards,” said Allen.