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Florida “State Fire Marshal” Tells Crazy Lie About EVs

When I saw this tweet, it was clearly complete bull, but the more I looked into it, the deeper the poop proved to be. Not only was a complete lie being told, but the person telling the lie is using a political technicality to pretend to be an expert in a field he has no experience in.

He’s Lying His Butt Off About EVs

Let’s look at this sentence by sentence to lay this crap to rest.

“There’s a ton of EVs disabled from Ian.”

This may be true, but not for the reasons he thinks (or wants us to think). There are few cars on the market that can survive flooding, gas, electric, or whatever else they may run on. The 12-volt electronics of a car just can’t survive being immersed in salt water. They get shorted out, and that’s that. If 7% of cars sold in Florida are EVs and a bunch of cars get damaged by flooding, then 7% of the cars destroyed in flooding will be EVs. The term “ton” is very vague, so we can’t verify the truth of this sentence.

“As these batteries corrode, fires start.”

This is where the outright lie happens. Absent a violent collision with debris that breaks the waterproof battery compartments open, an EV’s battery cells just aren’t going to be exposed to water. They’re not only water-tight but airtight. Even complete immersion or driving through deep floodwaters won’t hurt the battery pack, but other electronics that all cars have will probably malfunction (but not start a fire).

The only way flooding can destroy a battery pack is for it to remain underwater for days at a time, but few cars in the wake of Hurricane Ian would have been exposed for more than a few hours. So, the “tons” thing above starts to look misleading when you factor that in.

Even the flood cars that Rich Rebuilds has dealt with haven’t gone up in flames, though. With fresh water flooding, a pack actually survived water penetration. With salt water, there was corrosion, but no signs of shorting causing cell heating.

“That’s a new challenge that our firefighters haven’t faced before. At least on this kind of scale.”

This may have been true a decade ago, when there weren’t too many EVs on the streets, but any professional fire department is going to know what to do now. Politicians may be stuck in 1950, but firemen aren’t fools who act like they’ve got a learning disability any time change happens in the world. It’s not only their job to get it right, but their own lives on the line. They really do know what to do when the rare EV battery fire happens.

In fact, the State Fire Marshal’s office itself shared a bulletin by the National Fire Protection Association about how to handle submerged hybrid and electric vehicles. In the bulletin, it plainly says: “Submersion in water (especially salt water) can damage low and high voltage components. Although not a common occurrence, this could result in an electrical short and potential fire once the vehicle is no longer submerged.” (emphasis added)

So, not only do they know what to do, but they also know that the chance of a fire after an EV gets submerged is really low. The professionals know to just store the thing outside just in case.

How Could The State Fire Marshal Get This So Wrong After His Own Office Shared Better Information?

This is where the politically-motivated lies end and something that borders on stolen valor begins.

Yes, Jimmy Patronis is technically Florida’s state fire marshal. But, that’s a very deceptive thing to say, especially when you’re trying to act like you’re a subject matter expert. Patronis is really the state’s chief financial officer (CFO), and has the “fire marshal” title because Florida is weird and puts the state’s fire marshal office under the CFO.

Patronis himself is a restaurateur-turned-politician. He has an associate’s degree in restaurant management, and a bachelor’s degree in political science. He went on to serve in politics for years, eventually getting appointed to be the CFO for the state by longtime friend Governor Rick Scott in 2017.

I’m not going to bag on Patronis when he’s in his lane. His restaurant is still running after decades, so it must be a decent place to grab a bite. There’s nothing wrong at all with studying political science and pursuing a career in government. We need leadership in society.

But, from what I could find, Patronis didn’t ever go to a fire academy or spend 24-hour shifts in the firehouse. He didn’t compete with other firemen for a spot in a law enforcement academy to become a fire marshal. He didn’t pursue a degree in fire science, criminal justice, emergency management, or anything else relevant to being a fire marshal.

There’s nothing wrong with not doing those things, but if you haven’t done at least some of those things, you shouldn’t hold yourself out on Twitter as a “fire marshal” and then try to tell the public things about fire. If you’re going to do that, at least take a few minutes to ask the career fire guys below you about the topic to see what the general knowledge in the field is, or look at their website and read the bulletins by professionals who study this stuff for a living. Or do a simple Google search.

But, it doesn’t appear to me that his goal was to inform the public. His goal was probably to conduct a politically-motivated attack on clean technology. You don’t have to be an expert in anything to share disinformation and FUD. In fact, it’s better if you’re not an expert in the field because you’d lose a lot of credibility if you’re caught sharing blatant falsehoods about the topic.

But, if you’re a Republican politician, telling believable lies about EVs doesn’t hurt your credibility. It enhances your position and makes you look like one of the “good guys” to the people who already hate electric vehicles and are just looking for excuses for their irrational hatred. It could even be good for getting big donations for future political campaigns if you can signal to oil companies that you’re willing to carry water for them.

But, when the politicking comes at the cost of a whole public safety field’s credibility, it’s an incredibly bad idea in the long run. Someone with a political science degree should know that.

Featured image by US Forest Service. Public Domain.

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals. Follow her on Twitter for her latest articles and other random things:


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