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Tesla goes up in flames after single-car crash in Wakefield

A Tesla electric vehicle burns on Interstate 95 in Wakefield Thursday night following a single-vehicle crash. Courtesy/Wakefield Fire Department

By: Morgan Rousseau
January 20, 2023

It took firefighters more than two hours and over 20,000 gallons of water to put out a Tesla fire following a single-car crash on Interstate 95 in Wakefield Thursday night.

Wakefield fire officials and state police responded to the crash on the northbound lane near Exit 59 at 10:47 p.m., according to a press release from the Wakefield Fire Department.

First responders spotted a Tesla electric vehicle wedged against a guardrail in the right breakdown lane. As crews attempted to clear the car from the roadway, the guardrail pierced its undercarriage, causing the lithium-ion batteries to go into a thermal runaway, according to the statement. Fire officials said the vehicle then became “fully involved in fire.”

The car’s 38-year-old driver, who was not in the vehicle at the time of the fire, declined medical attention, according to officials.

To extinguish the blaze, firefighters spent two-and-a-half hours spraying “copious amounts of water onto the vehicle,” ultimately totaling more than 20,000 gallons, according to the statement.

Multiple surrounding mutual aid communities also responded to support firefighting operations and create a water shuttle to continually carry water to the scene. Engines from Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Lynnfield as well as a Middleton water tanker, assisted in the operation.

Firefighters used three hoses and a “blitz gun” to cool the Tesla’s battery compartment, according to officials.

The car was cleared from the roadway with permission from a Department of Fire Services Hazmat Team and the Department of Environmental Protection, according to the statement.

Officials said the fire caused traffic delays as state police directed vehicles to one lane amid a winter storm.

“As sales of electric and hybrid vehicles increase, the fire service is continuing to modify our tactics to properly respond, protect property and firefighters as well as control these types of fires,” said Provisional Fire Chief Tom Purcell, noting the additional challenges of fighting fires in electric vehicles.

Purcell said that controlling EV fires often takes longer and requires a large and continuous water supply. Crews must also maintain heightened situational awareness and prepare for secondary fires.

“The crews did a great job, especially in the middle of storm conditions — on a busy highway. All responding mutual aid companies from the surrounding communities that assisted were fantastic and greatly helped the Wakefield Fire Department in controlling the incident,” Purcell said.

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