Orange Firefighters Learn About Electric Vehicle Fires
Photo by ORANGE VFD
ORANGE, CT - The popularity of electric vehicles is growing, along with cellular phones, e-bikes and many other new tools and appliances. The common denominator among them is lithium-ion batteries and new challenges for firefighters.
Members of the Orange Volunteer Fire Department and the Orange Fire Marshal’s Office took a step toward meeting those challenges by recently attending a class at the Orange Center Road firehouse about electric vehicle (EV) fires.
“The hazards we face as firefighters are constantly evolving and we have to be ready,” said Fire Chief Vaughan Dumas. “Lithium-ion batteries provide incredible convenience but present new dangers for firefighters. The news is full of articles about phones, scooters and cars that catch fire with dramatic, sometimes deadly, results. We’ve already had some minor incidents in Orange and it’s only a matter of time before we face a major incident.”
Jason Rivera, of Northeast Squad Concepts, the course instructor, talked about the growing sales of vehicles powered by batteries alone or in conjunction with gasoline engines. In addition, he covered the dangers presented by appliances from cell phones to laptop computers to scooters and bikes that use lithium-ion batteries.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration, a federal government agency, supported Rivera’s position, reporting that the sale of hybrid and battery-powered vehicles rose to 16.3 percent of all light-duty vehicles in the United States during 2023. That compared to 12.9 percent of all sales the year before.
“The popularity of EVs also presents a fire-prevention challenge,” according to Fire Marshal James Vincent. “In addition to the popularity of EVs among private auto owners, several businesses are using and storing electric vehicles or have plans to use them. Our job includes making sure they are stored safely and the charging facilities are safe. We also investigate fires in town, including those caused by lithium-ion batteries.”
While battery systems in hybrid vehicles are more stable, according to Rivera, the biggest problem for firefighters is lithium-ion batteries, especially if they’re damaged or poorly made. An explosive reaction called thermal runaway can create a fire that is difficult to extinguish.
Rivera covered different approaches and tools to dealing with lithium-ion incidents. Firefighters discussed ways to reduce hazards of electrical vehicles that have been involved in accidents. Rivera noted that fires in electric vehicles generally occur after an incident has damaged the car’s battery pack. In addition, Rivera brought a Tesla electric vehicle to the fire station to show firefighters some of the built-in safety features.
“Lithium-ion batteries are increasingly found in the many devices and systems we use every day,” said Vincent. “Because of that, we’re seeing more related fires, prompting people to ask about battery safety.”
Vincent and Dumas offered these tips from the National Fire Protection Association about buying, charging, storing, and using lithium-ion batteries to help prevent fires:
- Only purchase and use devices, batteries and charging equipment that are listed by a nationally recognized testing lab and labeled accordingly.
- Use charging equipment that is compatible specifically with your device. To be safe, use only the charging equipment that is supplied with your device.
- Do not keep charging the device or device battery after it is fully charged.
- Do not put lithium-ion batteries in the trash. Take the batteries to a battery recycling location. Orange residents can bring batteries to the Orange Transfer Station, 100 South Orange Center Road. For others, the State of -- Connecticut says dial 1-800-8BATTERY (822-8837) and enter the zip code or visit www.call2recycle.org for information on where to drop off rechargeable batteries.
- Stop using your device if the battery shows signs of damage, such as an unusual odor, excessive heat, popping sounds, swelling, or change in color.
- Only have device repairs performed by a qualified professional.
Those with additional questions are invited to call the Orange Fire Marshal’s office at (203) 891-4700.
About the Orange Volunteer Fire Association
The Orange Volunteer Fire Association provides fire protection to residents and businesses in Orange and, through mutual aid, to surrounding towns. Members receive training in fire suppression, rescue, hazardous materials response, homeland security issues and other emergency services.
Operating strictly with revenues from fund-raisers and donations, the Orange Volunteer Fire Department is one of the few remaining all-volunteer incorporated fire departments in Connecticut. Active members are on call to serve the community on a 24-hour/seven-day basis, responding from stations on Orange Center Road and Boston Post Road.
In addition, the fire company offers public education services including lectures, demonstrations and training. For information about membership, donations or public education, call (203) 891-4703, click on https://www.orangevfd.org/ or find us on Facebook.
About the Orange Fire Marshal’s Office
The staff of the Orange Fire Marshal's Office, a municipal agency, consists of a full-time fire marshal, a full-time deputy fire marshal, two part-time fire inspectors, and a part-time administrative assistant. The office team inspects all properties except one- and two-family homes. The fire marshal investigates the cause of fires and issues permits for hazardous operations, including the installation of permanent propane tanks and piping, heating fuel storage tanks, gasoline and diesel fuel storage tanks, blasting permits, and commercial fireworks displays. In addition, the Fire Marshal's Office staff offers public fire prevention education programs. For more information, call (203) 891-4711.