Wilson bill to study EV fires is signed into law

Study will determine best firefighting practices when EVs go into flame mode

Sen. Jeff Wilson charges his 2017 Bolt at the Washington Capitol.

OLYMPIA – Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, remembers what happened when the battery on his 2017 Chevy Bolt was recalled because of a potential fire hazard.

“Suddenly people were telling me, ‘Don’t park here.’ People are spooked. It’s a problem all of us who own electric cars have learned to live with.”

Wilson got a new battery out of the recall, but he doesn’t park in his carport anymore. He parks on his driveway, a safe distance away. Concerns about EV fires prompted him to introduce a bill this year launching a study of firefighting practices. Senate Bill 5812 was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Firefighting agencies are telling us fires are a small but growing problem as EVs win greater acceptance in the marketplace,” Wilson said. “Battery fires pose special hazards, like high voltage, intense heat, toxic fumes and a tendency to reignite. To douse a battery fire, you need a dozen times more water than an ordinary fire truck can carry. Quite often, firefighters just stand back and let EVs burn.”

Wilson’s bill launches a study under the direction of the Washington State Patrol to determine best practices for fighting EV fires, make recommendations for equipment, and offer advice regarding hauling and storage. The study will involve representatives of law enforcement, firefighters and the towing industry. Wilson said the measure should help settle questions that have hindered public acceptance of electric vehicles.