RFD learning about accidents involving electric cars

Published: Apr. 15, 2016 at 8:31 AM PDT
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Though some firefighters with the Reno Fire department own electric cars and are familiar with their layout, it does not mean there is no fear when they encounter one in an accident.

“Absolutely, there is always the apprehension just because of the thought for the potential of the high voltage shock,” said Firefighter Jason Belton, Reno Fire Department.

However with the newer versions of hybrids and electric vehicles firefighters are starting to see safety features that are standard, no matter the make or model.

“Place that we want to avoid on the battery powered vehicle are the high voltage cabling. Everything is colored orange (in the newer models) and you don’t cut the orange stuff,” said Cpt. James Flenner, Reno Fire Department.

Whether it is a gas powered vehicle or an electric car there is one place firefighters start first.

“The regular 12 volt automotive battery,” Flenner said. “When you disconnect that you disconnect airbags, disconnects the high voltage system renders the vehicle safe.”

Given a choice of responding to an accident with a gas or electric vehicle Belton says his choice is clear.

“I would definitely prefer an electric vehicle over a gas powered vehicle, because we remove the fire hazard with the gasoline itself."

Belton points to a March 28th crash that happened near In-N-Out Burger on South Virginia Street as an example.

“The gas tank ruptured the fuel ignited, burned both cars to the ground,” Belton said.

For the sake of himself and his fellow firefighters, Belton hopes the public shifts to driving more electric cars.

“I feel that would make our job as first responders a lot safer specifically from the fire hazard,” he said.