Burning electric cars as a further challenge for the fire department

After a fatal accident with a burning electric car on Tuesday evening in Groß Kreutz near Potsdam, questions have arisen again about how the fire brigade deals with such incidents. Electric cars are a new challenge, says the German Fire Brigade Association; after the introduction of airbags or side impact protection, another one that arises every few years.

The fire of an electric car was on Tuesday according to the dpa report the first ever in the Potsdam-Mittelmark district. 30 firefighters were present. A problem with electric cars is that parts can be under high voltage, the report said.

Carsten-Michael Pix, consultant for fire service issues at the German Fire Brigade Association told heise online, that there is no special area-wide experience on the subject of extinguishing burning electric cars, and the accidents have so far been too rare for that. There are no central training courses, but experience would be passed on in individual training courses, for example, through specialist magazines or at the 24,000 fire service locations. The Berlin fire department has already held training courses on this.

There is one important rule for fires with electricity: keep your distance, explained Pix. Every firefighter knows every firefighter. This applies to electric cars as well as to other places where high voltage can be expected as well as for hybrid cars. In addition, lithium-ion batteries are becoming increasingly widespread and, for example, more and more can be found in houses and boats. So far, however, the fire departments had been able to gain experience with burning photovoltaic systems and their special requirements.

It may happen that the firefighters do not immediately see that the car that is currently burning is operated electrically. In the previous cases, however, the additional “E” in the license plate helped; in case of doubt, a license plate query also helps, in some cases a rescue data sheet can be called up online to make rescue work easier.

For example, Daimler provides for its Mercedes-Benz EQC electric SUV that emergency personnel scan a QR code with a smartphone or tablet PC, which is attached to the charging cover and on the opposite B-pillar, and thus quickly find the right rescue data sheet.

Seat Mii electric, an electric car for the city.
(Image: heise online / Florian Pillau)

Overall, he believes that manufacturers of e-car batteries would place particular emphasis on safety anyway, said Pix. In addition to his association, the Hessian Ministry of the Interior also emphasized that electric cars are not fundamentally more dangerous than combustion engines. “From the point of view of fire protection, the respective energy storage devices are dangerous points for firefighters in every vehicle,” it was said in spring 2019. An impression that traffic accident researchers later confirmed with crash tests.


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