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I-Team: How concerned should you be about your electric vehicle catching fire?

I-Team: How concerned should you be about your electric vehicle catching fire?
I-Team: How concerned should you be about your electric vehicle catching fire? 03:41

BOSTON – You may have seen the YouTube videos of electric cars catching fire. The dramatic scenes are playing out all around the country.

Just last month, in Wakefield, the driver a Tesla crashed after he lost control of the car on black ice. It went up in flames after the Lithium-Ion battery got punctured by the guardrail.

The driver told the WBZ-TV I-Team the car is a total loss.

It's not just after a crash that the car's batteries can ignite. Videos show tow trucks with hitched up electric cars on fire and surveillance from a tow lot shows a car spontaneously catching fire days after it was in a crash. 

It's incidents like these that have some questioning the safety of electric cars compared to gasoline powered cars. Car safety expert Sean Kane said there is not much information available on car fires.

"The data on fires in electric vehicles vs. internal combustion vehicles is still pretty thin. And generally speaking, from the available data the risk is probably about the same in terms of fire risk," Kane said.

Fire data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is not just thin, it's also five years old and is limited to fatal highway crashes.

The report shows out of 20,315 gasoline car fatalities from 2013-2017, there were 644 reported fires; for hybrids, 543 fatalities and 21 fires and electric cars had 41 fatal crashes and one fire.

Kristin Poland, the Deputy Director of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) told the I-Team, "what we are seeing is that the electric vehicles are newer and higher end so it is hard to compare and say one is safer than the others. These are rare events after a catastrophic crash."

That said, there is a significant danger to firefighters battling electric car fires. The batteries are hard to get at, hard to put out and the stranded energy that remains can easily re-ignite.

Wakefield Fire Chief Tom Purcell, involved in the Tesla blaze, said "And it's dangerous. They just don't' go out. It reignites in a minute or two."

The National Fire Prevention Association is providing training to first responders and released videos showing just how hazardous these fires can be

The NTSB also posted an informational video for fire departments and made several recommendations to auto manufacturers including, providing easy to access, clear information on how to put out battery fires, how to move the car and safely store it.

So what does all of this mean for consumers? Poland said she believes the cars are safe and because they are newer they are more likely to come with safety technology.

The driver of the Tesla that was totaled paid $120,000 for the car, and it's the second one he's owned. 

When asked if he would get another one, without hesitation he said yes.

The NTSB told the I-Team it wants the NHTSA to study the fire risks to first responders from the electric car batteries re-igniting.

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