A Tesla fire in Raleigh raises some questions — not about Tesla or its safety but about the fire itself, and the accuracy of the media coverage. One question that some in the Tesla Motors Club (TMC) forums and on Reddit are asking is if the fire actually happened at all, pointing to lack of evidence that shows something actually happened. Perhaps it wasn’t an actual fire.
I had to do some digging, and I found out there was a fire. However, it may not have been a battery fire (seems like it wasn’t) and it’s not the fire itself that I am writing about.
Early in the morning on October 14th, WRAL reported that a Tesla caught fire and that the reporters didn’t know what caused the fire. It started at around 3 am, and the road the car was on was closed until around 4 am. Raleigh police confirmed that there were no injuries. The news report seems short, to the point, and very straightforward — until you reread it and realize they are saying two different things about the road closure.
The article claimed that this incident caused the roads to be closed for several hours, yet also said the fire started before 3 am and that the roads were reopened by 4 am. That leads one to think it was only an hour or so, not several hours.
I called the Raleigh Police Department, which confirmed that it was assisting the Raleigh Fire Department. I also spoke with someone at the Raleigh Fire Department, who gave me a link to the public report. Any other information would probably have to be subpoenaed.
According to the public report, the incident was a vehicle fire and it was on fire when the fire department got there. It was a 2018 Tesla Model 3 and the smoke was coming from the front of the vehicle. They extinguished the fire with a CO2 extinguisher and 1,000 gallons of water. The Model 3 was damaged in the front because it had struck something, which caused damage to the vehicle’s electrical system.
So, the cause of the Tesla Model 3 fire was because the driver had hit something. Also, according to the report, you can see that the road was not closed for “several hours.” The dispatch time was 2:28 am, arrival time was 2:34 am, and the “clear time” was 4:05 am. That’s approximately 1½ hours. From the video, you can see there was hardly any traffic to “disrupt,” as would be expected at 3 am.
Before we move on, though, let’s note that there are far more gas car fires than EV fires per vehicle on the road, which is logical. Also, a Tesla battery fire doesn’t quickly blow up the car like a gas car fire can often do. Overall, electric vehicles are far safer than gasoline vehicles. But let’s get back to this story.
Tesla Owners Share Their Thoughts
TMC users shared their thoughts. AlanSubie4Life thought it looked like there was some type of debris hanging off the front wheel. This leads one to think that there was probably some type of obstacle in the road that could have caused battery damage. The cabin appeared to be filled with smoke and the majority of the spraying was being done to the battery area.
One user, PearlyP3D, said they drove down the road after this had happened and they didn’t see any obvious scorched asphalt or any sign of a vehicle fire. “Usually you’d at least see some melted plastic or something. The median on this road is a very low island style median. It’s not something I can see being tall enough to hit the battery pack and peel it open.”
Reddit users were also talking about this accident and TWANGnBANG claims that the entire Raleigh Tesla community hasn’t seen the white Model 3 that was in the news story. Also, in the video, it doesn’t show any fire or any visible signs that anything burned — just firefighters spraying with a light amount of water. Further, according to the Reddit user, no one brought it into the service center and Tesla has not been contacted regarding the Model 3.
“Turns out that nobody in the entire Raleigh TESLA community has seen the white Model 3 in the story claiming it burned. The video of the Model 3 showed no fire nor any visible sign that anything burned- just firefighters spraying the front pan with a light amount of water. Nobody brought it into the Service Center, nor has TESLA been contacted by anyone about it. It’s a real head-scratcher, but it’s extremely unlikely the battery was involved in the fire at all, and it’s even possible that the Model 3 wasn’t damaged by whatever happened in the first place. Not sure we’ll ever get more info at this point, but I’d say that if we don’t, it will be clear this is not a case of a Model 3 battery fire at all.” —TWANGnBANG
DrDabbles said that it seemed more likely that the Model 3 ran something over and dragged it — causing it to catch fire. Or maybe they hit something that punctured the pack. They also surmise that the fire department hosed it down out of caution — and that you never want to hook a burning EV up to a tow truck or flatbed.
“Just watched that video. If that car’s pack caught fire, and it’s unbelievably unlikely that it did, then that fire department needs to be retrained. It seems more likely that the car ran something over and dragged it for a bit causing whatever that thing was to light up, or maybe they hit something that punctured the pack. It’s conceivable that the FD responding just hosed it down out of caution. But you’d absolutely never want to hook a burning EV up to a tow truck or flat bet. Ever.” —DrDabbles
The best news in this scenario is that no one was injured in the accident and the fire was quickly put out. Also, here’s to hoping there was minimal damage to the Model 3.
There isn’t that much information on this fire, but one thing we do know is that a Tesla-related fire will basically always make the news — usually portrayed as if the Tesla itself were at fault. In many cases of car fires, it’s usually the driver or some type of driver-related accident that causes these fires. The vehicle manufacturer is often not given much attention. The question raised by this fire is just how fairly Tesla is being treated in these events.
— Tesla New York (@TeslaNY) October 13, 2019
In the tweet above, if we replace “Kia, Hyundai” with “Tesla,” you can imagine what would happen. The stock would drop and we would see articles not just trashing Tesla, but mocking the CEO. The shorts would have a field day — at the expense of Tesla employees, shareholders, and those affected by the accidents. Here’s another one:
— CNN (@CNN) March 4, 2017
Imagine if those headlines were about Tesla. Tesla short sellers would be publishing hundreds of tweets a day, the stock would tank, claims of Tesla’s imminent bankruptcy would be all over TV news shows. So, the core question is, why is Tesla treated so differently?
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