"When the fire department arrived, they observed standard procedure, which was to gain access to the source of the fire by puncturing holes in the top of the battery’s protective metal plate and applying water. For the Model S lithium-ion battery, it was correct to apply water (vs. dry chemical extinguisher), but not to puncture the metal firewall, as the newly created holes allowed the flames to then vent upwards into the front trunk section of the Model S. Nonetheless, a combination of water followed by dry chemical extinguisher quickly brought the fire to an end."

Model S On Fire

Model S On Fire

That's what Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated in regards to how the local fire department handled the recent Model S fire.

Though the fire department did a decent job, some mistakes were made.

The most notable mistake, at least according to Musk, was the puncturing of the metal firewall.

So, how does one learn how to correctly extinguish an electric vehicle fire?

Practice makers perfect.

Last Friday, just days after the Model S fire, Central Pierce Fire & Rescue (not Kent Fire & Rescue who handled the actual Model S fire) ignited an electric vehicle to practice dousing the flames.

What they found was that extinguishing battery-electric vehicles doesn't present a difficulty beyond that of conventional automobiles.  The way in which you attack the fire may differ, but the objective is the same: cool and eliminate/reduce/restrict the oxygen source.

The only add on for battery electric vehicles is that firefighters should disconnect the vehicle's high-voltage line is possible and should do so once the fire is fully extinguished.

For the Kent fire team that handled the blazing Model S, this was their first experience with an electric vehicle.  Though they appeared to have some difficulty in extinguishing the flames, the end result was that the fire was put out and that nobody was injured.

That's always the goal.  Prevent injury...extinguish the fire.

Source: Q13