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Tesla CEO responds to battery fire

by Ronan Glon

Tesla\'s CEO has gone on the defensive about his automaker after a battery fire earlier this week.

Outspoken Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that his electric car building automaker's products are "safer" than gas-powered vehicles after reports about a battery fire circulated in the media, pushing the company's stock down.

"For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery," a blog post attributed to Musk says.

Tesla stock closed at $173.31 last night following news that a Model S caught fire in Kent, Washington. Shares were at a record-high $191.83 the day before the fire was reported. Today, the stock closed at $180.98.

A report published by the Kent Regional Fire Authority states the driver of the Model S hit a piece of debris in SR-167's HOV lane about 20 miles south of downtown Seattle and pulled off the freeway when the car started running poorly. The S smoked and quickly burst into flames towards the bottom of the off-ramp, but the driver had enough time to get out safely and call for help.

Fire fighters say spraying water made the flames worse so they put out the initial blaze using a dry chemical extinguisher. When the smoke cleared, they realized the car's lithium-ion battery pack was still burning but they couldn't access it so they were forced to take apart the front end of the vehicle and puncture several holes in the pack to help the water reach the flames.

A jack was used to gain access to the underside of the car, which was still on fire, but there was no way to reach the battery pack so firefighters cut a hole through the front structural member to spray water on the last remaining flames and put the fire out once and for all.

Tesla blames the fire on the collision with a "large metallic object" and points out the flames did not reach the passenger compartment or spread to the entire battery pack thanks to the Model S' safe design.

"Because each module within the battery pack is, by design, isolated by fire barriers to limit any potential damage, the fire in the battery pack was contained to a small section in the front of the vehicle," explained a company spokesperson in a statement.

No other Model S fires have been reported since the car went on sale in June of 2012.

(Warning: Video contains strong language)

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