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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Facts About Garages and Car Fires

10/31/2023 (Permalink)

All too often today, we hear sensational stories about Electric Vehicles (EVs) bursting into flames in home garages. When they do occur, these fires will burn at intensely high temperatures and fire departments find them far more difficult to extinguish than fires involving gas or diesel powered vehicles. Extinguishing an EV fire requires copious amounts of water that can become contaminated with lithium and other chemicals and firefighters and others can be exposed to electrocution risks. But, EV and hybrid vehicle fires don’t occur all that often and the concerns of homeowners or property managers of public parking facilities can be diminished when the facts are more closely examined. 

Firefighting tactics don’t work the same on electric vehicles as on gas powered vehicles. Lithium ion battery fires are more tricky to put out, sometimes they can reignite hours, days or even a week later. Since California has the highest number of EVs and hybrid (gas and electric) vehicles among the 2.5 plus million such vehicles in the U.S., we have significant risk exposure. Studies have shown that fire occurrences among gas, hybrid and electric powered vehicles differ significantly. Hybrid-powered cars are the most prone to experiencing fire and have been involved in about 3.5% of vehicles sold (3,475 fires per every 100,000). Gasoline-powered cars experience 1.5%, (about 1,530 fires per every 100,000) vehicles. And in spite of the sensational headlines, electric vehicles (EVs) saw just 25 fires per 100,000 (.00025%) of vehicles sold.

So Do You Need To Protect Your Garage from a Fire?

The answer is yes – no matter what vehicle type you park there. A majority of garages contain flammable substances and electrical situations that are easy to ignite. You can vastly decrease the odds of a garage fire by following these simple garage-keeping safety steps:

  • For gas or hybrid car owners, inspect regularly for gas and oil leaks.  Clean them up and get repairs started immediately.
  • For EV owners, avoid over-charging EVs. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends owners avoid charging their EVs overnight and park EVs that need repair outside. Not charging to 100% every time will also help prevent overheating.
  • Have an electrician inspect your wiring before installing EV chargers to ensure they will handle the high voltages necessary to charge the vehicle. Older homes and damaged systems may be unable to charge EVs safely.
  • Store any oil, gasoline, propane, paint and varnishes in a structure like a shed that isn’t connected to the rest of the house – these are highly flammable and shouldn’t be stored in your garage.
  •  If you have washers, dryers, refrigerators, shop vacs and other appliances in your garage don’t store any items on top of the machinery as it can lead to a fire.
  • Always avoid overloading electrical outlets with multiple plugins. Overloaded outlets are a leading cause of garage (and home) fires.
  • Avoid using extension cords in garages, especially when powering or charging appliances. It just adds another danger that wires could short and spark a fire.
  • Sweep your garage frequently and throw out unneeded stuff. The more clutter, the more fire hazards.
  • Never install a solid-fuel burning device in a garage. It’s against building codes and a serious fire hazard.
  • Install a heat alarm instead of a smoke alarm in your garage. A heat alarm is more consistent and reliable. Smoke alarms are prone to sound off when the temperature gets too hot, or dust and fumes interfere with its reading. False smoke alarms will bug you so you’ll soon detach the monitor anyway. 

October is National Fire Protection Month; a good time to inspect and apply some common sense so that home garages, basements and attics aren’t neglected year-round.

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