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Tesla fire takes over two hours, 20,000 gallons of water to extinguish after Wakefield crash, police say

The crash scene on Route 128 in Wakefield.Kathy McCabe/Globe Photo

An electric car crashed on a highway in Wakefield Thursday, bursting into flames that took more than two hours and 20,000 gallons of water to extinguish, police said.

Shortly before 11 p.m., fire crews and State Police responded to reports of a single-vehicle crash in the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 near Exit 59, police said. A 38-year-old man driving a Tesla had crashed into a guardrail and refused medical attention, police said in a statement.

“As the vehicle was being prepared for removal from the scene, the guardrail pieced the undercarriage, causing the lithium-ion batteries to go into a thermal runaway,” police said.


The Tesla caught on fire, which took “copious amounts of water” to extinguish — about 20,000 gallons, police said.

“Thermal runaway” can occur in electric vehicles when their lithium-ion batteries are damaged, leading to “venting and combustion of toxic gases, cell rupture and release of projectiles, and battery reignition/fire,” according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

“When responding to an electric or hybrid vehicle fire there are additional challenges responding crews must consider,” Wakefield Provisional Fire Chief Tom Purcell said in the statement.

Kate Armanini can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @KateArmanini.