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Fire Marshal Says NC Garage Fire Started Away From Chevy Volt: Exclusive

 
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car on fire

car on fire

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Preliminary conclusions from the investigation into a Mooresville, North Carolina, house fire that destroyed a Chevrolet Volt indicate the fire did not start in the vehicle, but elsewhere, and progressed to engulf the electric car.

Iredell County chief deputy fire marshal Garland Cloer told GreenCarReports in an exclusive interview that, "the source of ignition seems to be from outside the area of the vehicles."

Shared preliminary conclusion

Cloer noted that his conclusion was preliminary, but he noted that his assessment was shared by "some of the other investigators" on the scene, who included representatives from Nissan, Chevrolet, Siemens, Duke Energy, and the homeowner's insurance company.

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt was plugged into a Siemens 240-Volt recharging station in the garage at the time of the fire. Much media coverage focused on the possibility that the extended-range electric car or its charging system could be at fault.

Two cars and a lot more

The North Carolina fire started in the three-bay garage of the house on Cades Cove Lane in Mooresville. That structure contained the Volt in the first bay, a 2007 Nissan Armada full-size sport-utility vehicle in the second bay, and a collection of miscellaneous objects in the third bay.

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

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Those objects included childrens' electric plug-in cars, various stored household items, gasoline, and other hazardous materials.

While large, the size of the garage was appropriate for the $1.5 million house, which covered a total of 5,700 square feet, according to Cloer. Local news reports placed the total damage to the house and garage at $800,000.

Fire progressed "to the vehicles"

"Fires take certain patterns," Cloer said, often a "V-shaped pattern that spreads out from the point of origin" that can be determined from the points where the flames have burned most intensely.

The fire pattern seen in this case "seems to have progressed to the vehicles" from elsewhere in the garage, Cloer said, which would indicate that neither the Volt nor the Armada was the source of ignition.

2011 Chevrolet Volt 240V charging station

2011 Chevrolet Volt 240V charging station

Enlarge Photo

Second-story room collapses into garage

The fire erupted on Sunday, October 30, but after the fire was extinguished and the scene was controlled, it took the county team several days to assess the building and remove debris to reach the ground floor of the garage.

The structure included not only the three bays but a "bonus room" with dormer windows above. The floor of that second-story room had collapsed into the garage, Cloer said, requiring its roof and floor structure to be cut into pieces and removed once they had been inspected and deemed not relevant to the investigation.

After that, the unstable front wall had to be removed as well before the various team members could safely gain access to the ground floor of the former garage.

Close inspection and analysis of the three bays started in earnest this past Tuesday with GM and Siemens on hand. A Nissan representative arrived Wednesday.

Volt not gutted

Once the Chevrolet Volt had been stabilized by GM technicians and removed, the team inspected the damage to the car.

In looking at vehicles that have caught fire, Cloer said, "seats, carpets, even rubber hoses, are not usually left intact" when a fire starts inside a car. But that was what they found in the Volt, along with a pattern that suggested the fire that engulfed it spread from the front to the rear of the car.




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Comments (8)
  1. Great article with lots of details on the fire. Well done. Let's hope this doesn't bring too much concern about EVs with the general public.
     
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  2. One detail the might be worth repeating from Voelcker's last article, there are 250,000 car fires per year in the USA. So while the source of the fire needs careful investigation, car fires are not uncommon.
     
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  3. Excellent article, I'm happy to hear a follow up to the Volt fire reports. And it sounds like the Volt is not the culprit, but this does show that more people especially TV reporters need to be better educated in plug-in cars.
     
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  4. If the fire didn't originate from one of the cars, I wonder what would have happened if there had been 2 BEV's in that garage instead of the Volt and the SUV. The gasoline in those cars probably had some effect on the fire.
     
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  5. Right, I think this sentence provides some clue to that.
    "...which led the team to believe that (battery damage) occurred when the fuel in the car's gasoline tank ignited."

    Of course, there are probably many other combustables in the garage anyway.

    Makes me wonder about those kid's EVs. I wonder if any of these kiddy EVs have been found to create fires.
     
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  6. Well covered and sane, rational comments from the usual people. What a shocker that the usual Volt-haters that were demanding a recall only last week and the end of production for the Volt are conspicuously absent from this...
    But there will be more fires, of course, so the same people will do the same.
     
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  7. Great article. I dont think Chevy could have handled a PR nightmare like the beloved Volt burning down a million dollar house. The only problem that I have is that the picture of a burning car on the top is neither the Chevy Volt or the families other car the Nissan Murano.
     
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  8. @Matt: That's true, the photo is something entirely different. We opted for a burning-car pic to underscore the theme of the piece--and, unfortunately, we don't have pics of every car on the market in flames!
     
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