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Fire Chief: Tesla Model S Plaid Caught Fire, Driver Had Difficulty Escaping

Trusted news outlets, first responders, and the vehicle's owner report that a Tesla Model S Plaid caught fire and that the doors did not function properly when the occupant tried to exit.


News media, first responders, and the occupant of a Tesla Model S Plaid are reporting that the just-released vehicle caught fire and that the occupant had difficulty exiting the vehicle due to the door's design. CNBC reports that the fire occurred in Haverford, Pennsylvania on June 29th. The news outlet also quoted the local chief fire officer of the Lower Merion Township Fire Department as saying that the driver was at the wheel when the fire erupted.

Tesla Model S Plaid Fire image courtesy of Geragos & Geragos

The report also adds that the driver "...had to force his way out of the vehicle, as the locks seemed to malfunction." This sounds a lot like the well-documented reports of a Tesla Model 3 that caught fire following a crash. In that Tesla fire example, people on-scene were unable to open the vehicle's doors and the occupant perished.

Tesla Model S Plaid Fire image courtesy of Geragos & Geragos

Details of this latest Tesla vehicle fire are relatively limited at this time. Other outlets reporting this event include the Washington Post, Reuters, Elektrek, and Inside EVs. Check back for more details as they become available.

The Tesla Model S Plaid trim is Tesla's latest six-figure halo vehicle, and was only just released this past month. Deliveries began at the Freemont plant three weeks ago in very limited numbers.

Tesla Model S Plaid Fire images courtesy of Geragos & Geragos, Los Angeles, California.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin


John Nemesh (not verified)    July 3, 2021 - 10:04PM

Tesla has doors with a manual (emergency) release mechanism. The driver should have been able to exit by using those...even if no power were available for the doors, that should still work. Also, it's a good idea to have a glassbreaker tool for emergencies, no matter what car you drive.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    July 4, 2021 - 11:22AM

I knew that you would be quick to report on this single Tesla fire. And I will grant you that no vehicle should ever just catch fire, especially one that is brand new. This didn't seem to be caused by an accident. Trouble exiting could have been cause by an electrical issue due to the fire as the door is primarily opened using solenoids. I currently own two cars that have solenoid door releases, and I made sure that I understood where the manual release was right off. For the Model S it is right next to the interior door button, and clearly the sole occupant was either able to use the manual release, or the solenoid release did work, but not right away. Unless the driver panicked, which is totally possible. Regardless, he got out completely unharmed. This refreshed Model S has a revised battery pack that is slightly smaller and the 18650 batteries use a revised composition with slightly higher energy density. The pack has a revised (more efficient) heating and cooling system for this new model. Hopefully if there is a fluke in the redesign, Tesla will catch it quickly and fix the issue.

John Goreham    July 5, 2021 - 11:02AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

It wasn't just this publication that covered this new Tesla fire story. Everyone did. Even the Tesla advocacy publications. No commentary on my part in this one. Something seems fishy. I relied on the facts at hand to put together this one. The first flag for me was the images are being distributed by an attorney's office.

BBlue (not verified)    July 5, 2021 - 2:07PM

These EV fires always draw attention and are publicized as a weapon in the industrial wars between manufacturers to discourage EV sales. FACT: One rarely hears of this info from the National Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (NIIHS), i.e., for every EV fire there are 9 ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle fires! This is actuarial data shared by insurance companies who pay for insured vehicle fires, that's most of them. New ICE vehicles also catch fire, but at 9 times the rate/100K vehicles in each category.
My 2019 Tesla Model 3 costs LESS for the same insurance on my other car, a 2017 Prius Prime Plug-In Hybrid. My agent explains this is due to lower injury claims & deaths in Tesla accidents and fires than for the Prius. Yet, my Tesla with 32K miles is worth several times the value of my Prius with 103K miles!

Mark Day (not verified)    July 6, 2021 - 2:58PM

Another ridiculous fad: electrically operated door openers, which have resulted in the death of folks. Having backup cable openers doesn't do any good if the passenger/driver is unconscious and an emergency crew is attempting to save the occupants. More stupidity: the driver-side window should have a manual crank, for exiting in an emergency.