Hazmat teams respond after electric semi-truck catches fire in south Phoenix

The fire broke out as the electric truck was being tested at the Nikola Corporation Friday morning.
Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 9:32 AM MST|Updated: Sep. 8, 2023 at 12:31 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) Phoenix firefighters and hazardous materials teams responded to a fire involving an electric semi-truck in south Phoenix Friday morning.

Crews from Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe were called to the Nikola Motors headquarters near 40th Street and Broadway Road shortly before 9 a.m. Friday for reports of an electric vehicle (EV) fire. Firefighters who arrived on scene quickly upgraded the call to a first-alarm response, requesting additional crews. About 50 firefighters responded.

Firefighters have to use different methods when dealing with battery-related EV fires. In these situations, hazmat teams work to cool the batteries down to prevent what’s called a thermal runaway process, where batteries can continue heating uncontrollably.

Phoenix Fire Capt. Todd Keller says the fire started as a Nikola pre-production truck was undergoing maintenance. Keller added that crews set up a “blitz monitor,” which is described as a stand-alone device that distributes water from a safe distance to cool the battery. No one was hurt, and only one business had to be evacuated.

Four electric semi-trucks caught fire at the same facility in June, in an incident Nikola officials initially suspected was “foul play.” In August, the EV manufacturer announced a recall of 209 of its electric semi-trucks, saying a coolant leak was the likely cause of the fire in June.

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