This is why extinguishing a Li-Ion battery fire can be a difficult job for the firefighters. Often, the fire reignites after it appears to have been put out. This is why electric vehicles are usually submerged in water tanks when they catch fire. In the case of the fire that erupted at the Rivian plant, the defective battery pack was not even installed on a vehicle. According to local media and firefighter reports, the battery was being tested in the battery repair area of the plant when the thermal runaway occurred.
“Firefighters connected hoses to standpipes inside the building and extinguished the battery pack fire and then continued to flow water on the pack to keep it cool to prevent further thermal runaway from occurring,” writes the report. “Once the battery pack was extinguished and cooled, firefighters moved the fire-damaged battery outside of the plant and began ventilating the smoke from the building. Once outside, firefighters continued to cool the pack with water until it was released to Rivian engineers for investigation and disassembly.”
Luckily, no injuries were reported to employees or firefighters, and the fire did not involve any vehicle or production equipment. According to the Normal Fire Department, the only damage was to the battery pack, the carrier, and the test booth equipment. This is, however, the third time that firefighters have had to respond to a fire at Rivian’s plant since the beginning of production last year.
The first incident was reported in October 2021, when another fire started in the automated battery assembly area. Then, in February 2022, a vehicle caught fire inside the plant, though the sprinkler system prevented it from spreading. In an unrelated accident, an R1T truck caught fire the same month after hitting a pole in Irvine, California, showing just how unstable these batteries are.