Florida State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis Demands NHTSA Provide Data on Fire Risks of Electric Vehicles

Connecticut Tesla still burning (Stamford Fire Department)
Stamford Fire Department

Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis recently sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requesting information on the fire risks created by saltwater mixing with the batteries of electric vehicles.

“The State Fire Marshal’s Office is in need of immediate guidance regarding the response to fires produced by electric vehicles (EVs) that are compromised as a result of lithium batteries corroding from exposure to salt water,” Patronis said in his letter.

Florida's chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis speaks at pre-legislative news conference on Tuesday Oct. 29, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants his state to set up a system that will require employers to verify the immigration status of job applicants. But it's unclear if that effort will get any traction among lawmakers, especially since a similar effort failed during the most recent legislative session earlier this year. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 02: Elon Musk attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)

Elon Musk (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)

Last week, electric vehicles were seen catching on fire in Florida after becoming waterlogged during Hurricane Ian, giving firefighters “a new challenge” they “haven’t faced before,” Patronis said.

“I joined North Collier Fire Rescue to assess response activities related to Hurricane Ian and saw with my own eyes an EV continuously ignite, and continually reignite, as fireteams doused the vehicle with tens-of-thousands of gallons of water,” Patronis continued in his letter to the NHTSA.

The State Fire Marshal went on to say that he was later “informed by the fire department that the vehicle, once again reignited when it was loaded onto the tow truck.”

“Based on my conversations with area firefighters, this is not an isolated incident,” Patronis added. “As you can appreciate, I am very concerned that we may have a ticking time bomb on our hands.”

Therefore, Patronis is requesting that the NHTSA provide him with the following information no later than October 14:

Has NHTSA directed EV companies to immediately communicate with consumers on dangers related to a vehicle impacted by storm surge? Can the agency make that information available to my office so that we can distribute?

Do the personal protective equipment (PPE), including the gas masks utilized by fire rescue teams, effectively protect first responders from poisonous gases?

Do search teams need to create specific missions for immediate removal of EVs by secondary responders?

Is there research or guidance as to the timeline by which corrosion may lead to fires?

Is there any guidance, or specific designated locations, where compromised EVs should be taken to burn-out? Have federal authorities been sharing that information with secondary responders, like tow truck operators?

“In my experience, Southwest Florida has a significant number of EVs in use, and if those EVs were left behind, exposed to storm surge, and sitting in garages, there is a risk of fires,” the State Fire Marshal warned.

Patronis added that the NHTSA’s response “may be the difference between life and death.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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