It was a horrible sight – a motionless Model S on a rain-slick Seattle road, its front half consumed in flames. No one was hurt, and the real flames were confined to a small section at the front of the vehicle. How far will the symbolic fire spread? It’s too early to say.
If it turns out that the 21st-century vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries were at fault, then the flat-earth society may have the fire they’ve been praying for – one that they’d like to see burn up every electric vehicle, every solar panel, every wind turbine and every other symbol of the future that they fear. If the cause turns out to be more mundane, then this will be just another of the 180,000 automobile fires that occur in the US every year.
The incident will be investigated in minute detail, and every aspect of the story will be discussed ad infinitum in the press. The stock market reacted instantly – TSLA, its latest surge already curbed after an analyst’s downgrade, closed down over 6% for the day (real time quote).
The driver said he believed he had struck some metal debris, so he exited the freeway, he began to smell something burning, then the vehicle caught fire. Firefighters wrote in an incident report that they appeared to have the fire under control, but the flames reignited. Crews found that water seemed to intensify the fire, so they began using a dry chemical extinguisher. After dismantling the front end of the vehicle and puncturing holes in the battery pack, responders used a circular saw to cut an access hole in the front section to apply water to the battery, and only then was the fire extinguished.
“This was not a spontaneous event,” said Tesla spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean. “Every indication we have at this point is that the fire was a result of the collision and the damage sustained through that.”
Normally, NHTSA investigators would travel to Washington to investigate the crash. But with the partial government shutdown, NHTSA’s field investigations have been suspended.
Source: Associated Press