A Tesla Model S "spontaneously caught fire while it was traveling freeway speeds" down a highway in California, according to the Sacramento Fire Department. Metro Fire of Sacramento tweeted video and images of the white Tesla Model S, indicating that a huge amount of water — approximately 6,000 gallons — was used to extinguish the flames. Video shows crews inserting lifts under the driver's side of the vehicle to raise it off the ground, making it easier for firefighters to spray water directly to the large lithium ion battery pack that's mounted under the car's passenger compartment "as the battery cells continued to combust".
Crews arrived to a Tesla Model S engulfed in flames, nothing unusual prior. 2 Fire Engines, a water tender, and a ladder truck were requested to assist. Crews used jacks to access the underside to extinguish and cool the battery. Thousands of gallons were used in extinguishment. pic.twitter.com/5dIXxo9hP5
— Metro Fire of Sacramento (@metrofirepio) January 29, 2023
Despite several Twitter comments suggesting a different method of extinguishment should have been used, the crew successfully put out the blaze by using the process recommended by Tesla itself. From Tesla's official guide: "If the battery catches fire, is exposed to high heat, or is generating heat or gases, use large amounts of water to cool the battery. It can take between approximately 3,000-8,000 gallons (11,356-30,283 liters) of water, applied directly to the battery, to fully extinguish and cool down a battery fire; always establish or request additional water supply early." The documentation continues, "If safety permits, lift or tilt the vehicle for more direct access to the battery."
It's worth noting that the vast majority of vehicle fires reported on American roads involve vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, not battery packs, as the National Fire Protection Association explained to Vox. Despite the relative rarity of EV fires, the methods (as explained by Tesla in the links in the previous paragraph) to extinguish the flames are different, and the fires are extremely hot, leading to some impressive displays of destruction.
In the case of this particular Tesla Model S fire, we're pleased to report that nobody was seriously injured and the conflagration was extinguished.