When Thayer Smith, a firefighter in Austin, Texas, received the call that a Tesla was on fire, he knew that he’d need to bring backup.
It was in the early morning hours of August 12, 2021, and a driver had slammed a Model X into a traffic light on a quiet residential street in Austin before crashing into a gas pump at a nearby Shell station. The driver, a teenager who was later arrested for driving while intoxicated, managed to escape the car, but the Tesla burst into flames. As emergency responders battled the fire in the dark of night, bursts of sparks shot out of the totaled car, sending plumes of smoke up into the sky. It took tens of thousands of gallons of water, multiple fire engines, and more than 45 minutes to finally extinguish the blaze.
“People have probably seen vehicles burning on the side of the road at one point or another,” Smith, the division chief at the Austin Fire Department, recalled.