Navigating new frontiers: DM fire, emergency services gears up for electric vehicle fire incidents

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Eric Partlow
  • 355th Civil Engineer Squadron

As technology and the world evolve, so do the hazards and risks we encounter. The 355th Civil Engineer Squadron fire and emergency service flight is committed to meeting these progressive challenges with proactive measures.

Innovation stands as a cornerstone of the department’s ethos, driving their response to emerging hazards. Thus, when confronted with the threat of electric vehicle fires, they focused on tackling the challenge head-on.

The emergence of EVs has introduced a new set of challenges for fire departments across the globe. In the United States, approximately 2.5 million currently traverse the roadways. There have been numerous reports of fire departments contending with EV fires for extended durations. However, the effectiveness of these efforts is frequently hindered by a significant challenge: many firefighters lack the necessary equipment and experience to efficiently combat them.

Unlike traditional vehicle fires, which can typically be extinguished within a relatively short timeframe, EV fires present unique complexities that demand specialized approaches. These fires can escalate due to thermal runaway, where a single cell failure triggers an uncontrollable exothermic chemical reaction, rapidly increasing temperatures and intensifying the blaze. This chain reaction is self-sustaining and does not rely on atmospheric oxygen, making it exceedingly difficult to contain.

Recent studies indicate a growing focus on developing specialized training programs for firefighters to address the unique challenges posed by EV fires. To overcome these challenges, innovative solutions are imperative to enhance the effectiveness and safety of firefighting operations.

One solution is exemplified by the proactive initiatives undertaken by the FES flight. Recognizing the escalating prevalence of EVs on American roads, the department has taken decisive steps to equip its personnel with the necessary tools and expertise to navigate the complexities of these fires.

By procuring fire retardant blankets and authoring meticulous protocols tailored specifically for EV fire incidents, the 355th CES has emerged as a trailblazer in the realm of firefighting excellence.

Jason Rice, 355th CES FES battalion chief, underscores the importance of innovation in addressing evolving threats.

He said, as the world progresses, so do its hazards. We must remain proactive in adapting to these changes to ensure the safety and well-being of our team and the local community.

This mindset permeates every facet of the department's operations, driving a relentless pursuit of excellence and continuous improvement.

FES is committed to seeking out new, efficient methods for training and operations. Recently, the department acquired a pump panel simulator through its victory in the 355th Wing innovation contest.

This simulator provides unrestricted training access for all 67 firefighters while minimizing wear and tear on emergency response vehicles while conserving 400,000 gallons of water annually, a valuable resource in the Sonoran Desert of Southwest Arizona.

Lastly, the accreditation of FES through the Center for Public Safety Excellence serves as a testament to their unwavering commitment to professionalism and excellence. By embodying a culture of continuous improvement and prioritizing safety above all else, the department sets a precedent for others to emulate.

Through proactive measures, such as those demonstrated by FES, fire departments can mitigate risks, enhance safety, and safeguard communities in the face of this ever-changing landscape.

The challenges posed by EV fires underscore the critical importance of innovation and adaptability within the firefighting community. As technology continues to advance, fire departments must remain vigilant in upgrading their strategies and resources to effectively address these evolving threats.