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36,000 gallons of water, dozen rescue organizations required to extinguish I-65 Tesla fire

According to the Pine Level Fire Department, its firefighters were called to the scene of a single vehicle accident Christmas night on I-65 around 11 p.m. Pine Level is about 20 miles north of Montgomery.

Upon arrival, first responders found an unoccupied Tesla Model Y on fire. However, authorities found the driver, Michael Sherrill of Georgia, who was not injured. Then, he was placed under arrest for driving under the influence.

While the fire and the resulting closure of a portion I-65 alone might have been enough to make state and local news, what happened next garnered national headlines and attention.

As a result of the vehicle being electric and containing a lithium battery, the fire would not extinguish immediately. It would eventually take 36,000 gallons of water and about a dozen rescue organizations to accomplish the feat.

“Assistance was immediately requested from Marbury, Booth, Independence, White City, Old Kingston, and Verbena Fire Departments, along with Haynes Ambulance, ALEA, Autauga Co EMA, ALDOT, and Autauga Co Sheriff’s Office,” wrote the Pine Level Fire Department on social media. “This was a first for Autauga County.”

The department also said attempting to put out an electric car fire comes with serious risks for first responders.

“Electric vehicle fires are unusual and present unique challenges and dangers to firefighters,” the post said. “The smoke from these burning electric cars produces hydrogen flouride and hydrogen chloride gases – both of which are toxic to breathe and requires firefighters to wear breathing apparatus.

“We’re grateful to all of the agencies (all of whom are staffed by professional volunteers) who left their families late on Christmas Day to support and protect their communities.”

Sherrill was taken to the Autauga County Jail and was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and is being held on $5,000 bail.

According to industry experts, batteries used in Teslas can reignite and burn between 2,000 and 4,000 degrees.

Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.

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