Arizona Waymo electric car fire burned itself out after a week: Phoenix Fire

We have an update on a fire involving a Waymo electric vehicle at a warehouse in Phoenix.

The fire began in the area of 3rd Street and Buckeye Road, a place where many Waymo electric vehicles come to unload their GPS and ride data, according to officials with the Phoenix Fire Department.

Here's what you should know about the fire.

When did the fire begin?

The fire, according to officials, began on the morning of May 2.

For some reason, one of the cars caught fire just before 9 a.m., prompting a massive HAZMAT response from firefighters.

The sprinklers at the warehouse went off, and all employees got out of the building safely.

Fire officials said the sprinklers were key, because they prevented other cars from catching fire.

How many people were involved in the fire response?

The HAZMAT response was massive, with more than 50 firefighters from Phoenix and Tempe responding.

Phoenix Fire Captain Todd Keller described the difficulties firefighters faced when battling the EV fire.

"These cells, in a 10th of a second, can heat up to 1,200 degrees," said Cpt. Keller. "That's why it makes it so difficult to extinguish these fires."

Businesses in the area were surprised at the size of the fire response.

"We saw everything coming down. We didn't know what happened. They closed the roads off. People were calling us if we were closed, if we were on fire," said a business owner in the area.

What did firefighters do to battle the fire?

After water cooled down the fire, Phoenix Fire officials put the car what was essentially a dumpster, with sand and water on top of it. The car was allowed to smolder.

"We may have not fought an EV fire the way we did a year ago, but we're always advancing our technology on how to extinguish these. You have to cool them down," said Cpt. Keller.

Phoenix Fire officials say they have only used this strategy of fighting an EV fire a few times. Initially, they said it might take three weeks to put the fire out.

On May 23, however, we have learned from fire officials that the fire burned itself out after about a week.

"It was exposed a week later. We took the car, we took the sand away from it, and it looked dead. It was not going to reignite," said Cpt. Rob McDade with the Phoenix Fire Department.

Who developed the fire strategy?

Phoenix Fire officials said the strategy was developed weeks prior, as a result of another electric fire that kept reigniting.

We reported on that EV fire, which happened in the area of Scottsdale Road and Paradise Lane on Feb. 24. At the time, we reported that the fire, which involved a Tesla vehicle, caught fire after it crashed into a building, and caught fire again as it was being towed.

"There are certain portions of electric vehicles [that] once they catch on fire, they’re very difficult to put out and take copious amounts of water," said M. D. Clark with the Scottsdale Fire Department, as the time of the Tesla car fire.

Phoenix HAZMAT crews were also involved in the firefighting efforts for that particular incident. After the car ignited for a second time, firefighters realized they needed to make a change. According to Cpt. McDade, tow trucks no longer wanted to take EVs after the fire, due to concerns over re-ignition.

What's next for Phoenix fire in their EV firefighting efforts?

Phoenix Fire officials said their response is being discussed in Washington D.C.

"The national attention is really looking back on Phoenix, saying ‘please provide us with everything you’ve done.' In fact, we have folks headed back to Washington to show them what we've done so far," said Cpt. McDade. "So, is this what we'll do five years from now? We don't know, but in the next six months, we're confident this is now the blueprint we're going to move forward with."

Image 1 of 4

A Waymo electric vehicle caught fire in a Phoenix warehouse on the morning of May 2, prompting a massive hazmat response from firefighters. (KSAZ-TV)

Area where the fire happened: