NORTH HIGHLANDS, Calif. (KTXL) — Caltrans cameras showed fire from a Tesla vehicle on Interstate 80 near Madison Avenue spread to the side of the road Monday morning.
Sacramento Metro Fire said one person was taken to the hospital. At least one lane was blocked due to fire crews battling the flames, which led to traffic in the area being slightly backed up.
“It was impressive to see the amount of destruction that came off the Tesla,” Captain Parker Wilbourn said.
The fire also burned a utility pole and a palm tree.
“It’s very difficult to extinguish those fires,” Wilbourn said.
Wilbourn said these emergencies pose a more difficult challenge than combustion engines that use gasoline.
“When one battery catches fire, it preheats the next battery, the next battery and the next battery. It causes a fire and it is a chain reaction from there,” Wilbourn explained.
Safety officials said lithium batteries cause the fires to also burn hotter, longer and take more water. The Tesla fire at a Sacramento County wrecking yard in June took 4,500 gallons of water to put out because it kept reigniting.
“It was involved in an accident 26 days before it spontaneously caught fire. It will be interesting to see if there is a reaction that takes place with this Tesla,” Wilbourn said.
“Consumers have to be very careful when they are driving, they have to be very defensive drivers,” Liza Tucker, consumer watchdog, said.
Tucker said she is pleased that electric vehicles are becoming more mainstream, but she warns these types of incidents mean every fire agency in the country needs to know how to put them out.
“We need these car manufacturers to be a lot more specific, and we need many more firefighters to be trained up quickly. And we need the federal government to be more involved,” Tucker said.
It’s a new challenge for first responders, and a new dilemma for drivers, just as electricity-powered vehicles are accelerating in popularity.
Jacque Porter contributed to this report