LOS GATOS — In what fire officials have previously described as an ongoing risk, a Tesla Model S burst into flames Tuesday afternoon at a tire repair shop in Los Gatos and then reignited hours later at a Campbell tow yard, authorities said.
Santa Clara County firefighters were called to a tire repair shop in the 500 block of University Avenue just after 2 p.m. and found the all-electric vehicle in flames outside the business. They quickly put out the fire before it could spread to the adjacent building, and no injuries were reported.
The car had been dropped off at the site five to 10 minutes earlier after it got a flat tire on a nearby highway, the Santa Clara County Fire Department stated in a news release. The exact cause of the fire is under investigation.
Firefighters spent about six hours cooling the car before it was taken to a tow yard in Campbell, officials said. But around 10 p.m., they were called out to the yard after the car ignited into flames again, and “re-initiated the cooling/monitoring process in
The fire department was still monitoring the car and battery Wednesday morning.
The experience was similar to the aftermath of a fatal March 23 wreck involving a Tesla Model X on southbound Highway 101 near the Highway 85 flyover ramp in Mountain View. In that case, Tesla engineers arrived on scene and dismantled about 25 percent of the battery, and after about five-and-a-half hours after the crash, the fire department determined the Model X was safe enough to be towed away.
The battery reignited twice in a storage yard within a day of the crash and again six days later on March 29. Two weeks later, in an effort to avoid more fires, the National Transportation Safety Board and Tesla performed a battery draw down to fully de-energize it, according to an April 5 safety memo that Mountain View Fire Department chief Juan Diaz issued to his staff.
“We are very familiar and aware that a lithium ion battery that has been damaged has the potential to re-ignite,” Diaz told this news organization. “The battery overheats. It’s not an event that surprised anybody.”
After that March wreck — which is being investigated by the NTSB in part because the autopilot function was activated at the time — Tesla wrote on its company website that the involved Model X had sustained an unprecedented level of damage from hitting a concrete barrier and that its batteries “are designed so that in the rare circumstance a fire occurs, it spreads slowly so that occupants have plenty of time to get out of the car,” adding that the fire rate of Tesla vehicles is far lower than comparable gasoline-powered vehicles.
In Tuesday’s incident, prior to the initial fire, there was no reported damage to the Model S other than the flat tire.
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