News

Parking lot fire destroys McLaren office, Tesla batteries

Cause of blaze under investigation

A pallet of Tesla batteries, a McLaren business office and a Ford pickup truck went up in flames Sunday morning in a shared south Palo Alto parking lot.

A fire in the parking lot at 4190 El Camino Real destroyed a McLaren office, Tesla batteries and a pickup truck on Aug. 7, 2022. Courtesy Palo Alto Fire Department.

Palo Alto dispatchers received a call shortly before 5:30 a.m. about a possible illegal bonfire in the lot at 4190 El Camino Real, near the Arastradero Road intersection, fire Capt. Ryan Stoddard said. When firefighters responded, they saw the pickup truck, the batteries and the small building that houses the McLaren office all on fire.

"It was hard to say which of these started it," Stoddard said.

The one-alarm fire occurred at the parking lot behind three dealerships: McLaren, Volvo and Tesla. The burning truck was positioned near the ramp that was close to the McLaren office but just over the property line, Stoddard said. Firefighters from Palo Alto and Mountain View attacked the fire from two sides, stretching lines from El Camino Road and from Arastradero Road, through the Walgreens parking lot.

"Then it was just surround and drown," Stoddard said.

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Firefighters battled the blaze for several hours and knocked it down by 8 a.m. Smoke was still visible from the street as the batteries continued to smolder.

The small detached structure in the middle of the lot that housed the McLaren business office was completely destroyed.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries during the operation. The firefighter was transported to the hospital, treated and released, Battalion Chief Marc Muzzi said Monday.

Numerous Palo Alto police cars also arrived to the scene to investigate the fire site. Stoddard said Sunday that investigators looked into arson as a possible cause, but Muzzi said Monday it was no longer under consideration after a preliminary investigation.

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Palo Alto Weekly reporter Sue Dremann contributed to this report.

Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Parking lot fire destroys McLaren office, Tesla batteries

Cause of blaze under investigation

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sun, Aug 7, 2022, 9:28 am
Updated: Mon, Aug 8, 2022, 5:32 pm

A pallet of Tesla batteries, a McLaren business office and a Ford pickup truck went up in flames Sunday morning in a shared south Palo Alto parking lot.

Palo Alto dispatchers received a call shortly before 5:30 a.m. about a possible illegal bonfire in the lot at 4190 El Camino Real, near the Arastradero Road intersection, fire Capt. Ryan Stoddard said. When firefighters responded, they saw the pickup truck, the batteries and the small building that houses the McLaren office all on fire.

"It was hard to say which of these started it," Stoddard said.

The one-alarm fire occurred at the parking lot behind three dealerships: McLaren, Volvo and Tesla. The burning truck was positioned near the ramp that was close to the McLaren office but just over the property line, Stoddard said. Firefighters from Palo Alto and Mountain View attacked the fire from two sides, stretching lines from El Camino Road and from Arastradero Road, through the Walgreens parking lot.

"Then it was just surround and drown," Stoddard said.

Firefighters battled the blaze for several hours and knocked it down by 8 a.m. Smoke was still visible from the street as the batteries continued to smolder.

The small detached structure in the middle of the lot that housed the McLaren business office was completely destroyed.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries during the operation. The firefighter was transported to the hospital, treated and released, Battalion Chief Marc Muzzi said Monday.

Numerous Palo Alto police cars also arrived to the scene to investigate the fire site. Stoddard said Sunday that investigators looked into arson as a possible cause, but Muzzi said Monday it was no longer under consideration after a preliminary investigation.

Palo Alto Weekly reporter Sue Dremann contributed to this report.

Comments

Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2022 at 1:00 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 1:00 pm

Hmm, very suspicious. My first reaction was arson, pleased I'm not the only one.


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Aug 7, 2022 at 1:19 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 1:19 pm

McLarens are very pricey as are Teslas, and I have heard it takes hours and hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to extinguish a single Tesla battery ... so they leave a pallet of Tesla batteries in the middle of an unsecured lot, as well as unsecured cars ... without having 360 degree views of video cameras going 24/7? Yeah it was arson for sure, but those car dealers need to invest at least $100 for a nannycam.


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 7, 2022 at 1:53 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 1:53 pm

Thank you Gennady for your timely reporting about the fire.


DB
Registered user
Mountain View
on Aug 7, 2022 at 3:56 pm
DB, Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 3:56 pm

Just because the police have not released video footage doesn't mean they don't have it.

Great job by the firefighters for managing to put out the fire with just property damage.


theAlex
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2022 at 3:57 pm
theAlex, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 3:57 pm

So that's what that electrical/ozone smell was this morning!


GRF
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 7, 2022 at 4:08 pm
GRF, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 4:08 pm

I live next to the dealership. The burnt office is only about 40ft from my bedroom. I was wakened by the explosion, and then saw the bright fire outside. The fire rose by 30ft above the office, which is unusual. Some flammable things must be around the office. It's lucky that someone called 911 before I woke up. So scary. The dealerships stacked their stuffs next to the fence and leave them unattended at night, which creates potential fire safty issues.


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Aug 7, 2022 at 5:46 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 5:46 pm

Focus on the Tesla batteries, especially if they were just sitting on a pallet and not confined in fireproof containers. Their lithium batteries are unstable because their design is years outdated. Plus, some government agency, possibly the NHTSA, recommends that Tesla EV's never be charged in your garage overnight, and also that any Li Ion vehicle with greater than 80% charge never be parked within 30 feet of your house.
All of this is my recollection of what I, a "PhD rocket scientist", have read from reliable sources, so it is my opinion and not fact. I don't want a madman like Musk suing me, and that all is my opinion too. But given his alleged behavior, that could well be fact --- but I am not claiming it to be so.


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Aug 7, 2022 at 6:00 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 6:00 pm

Neither Tesla and especially not McClaren vehicles are relevant to the future of the 90+% of middle- and lower-class families in the USA. They are far too expensive and just toys for the near-rich and real rich folks to flaunt their wealth. Will we ever have TRULY affordable, long-range EV's, or is this just a fad for Socialist "progressives" and rich folks? By "affordable", I mean the price of a car like the ubiquitous Toyota Camry. Or maybe a cheap SUV or Crossover? As for the McClaren? It is just a rich folk toy.


Jarrod Palmquist
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 8, 2022 at 6:46 am
Jarrod Palmquist, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2022 at 6:46 am

Lithium-ion batteries are potentially dangerous when overcharged or exposed to excessive heat...no different than a far smaller smartphone battery.

Tesla's are also dangerous vehicles due to their inherent design.

These batteries should not have been left outdoors in the summer heat as spontaneous combustion is always a possibility.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 8, 2022 at 10:43 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2022 at 10:43 am

I forwarded this article to a friend who said firemen blamed lithium batteries on a fire at a mutual friend's home. Who knew it's a common problem.


wmconlon
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2022 at 10:52 am
wmconlon, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2022 at 10:52 am

Mr. Hitchens comment is on target.
NFPA-855 (2020) [Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems] section 14.5 governs the outdoor storage of used or off-spec lithium batteries.

Pertinent items related to Sunday's fire are:
* size -- no more than 200 square feet per pile
* separation -- minimum 20 feet from lot lines, public ways, buildings, other storage, hazardous materials, other exposure hazards

I would think that a battery pile would be at higher risk for fire than a battery in use --- as it is presumably defective and has been disconnected from the monitoring and cooling systems required for lithium batteries in service.

The Code does not specify the maximum volume of a 'pile' of batteries. I think that is an oversight that should be addressed in a future revision.

Lithium batteries are highly flammable, virtually impossible to extinguish, and the fires emit highly toxic gases, including HF. Water used to cool the battery fire may also be toxic and corrosive, and potentially hazardous to first responders and the community.

I am not sure whether Palo Alto has adopted this code, but in my view it is a minimum requirement for the use of lithium batteries for energy storage. If the council has not adopted 855, I urge immediate consideration.


toransu
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 8, 2022 at 12:47 pm
toransu, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2022 at 12:47 pm

@William Hitchens "Will we ever have TRULY affordable, long-range EV's, or is this just a fad for Socialist "progressives" and rich folks?"

...sweetie, do you actually know what socialist means? Because I can guarantee you no actual socialist thinks that we can avert a climate crisis via *capitalism*.


felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2022 at 2:28 pm
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 9, 2022 at 2:28 pm

I love the above comment to "sweetie".
Made me feel good about things.


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