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Hazard concerns raised over Grand Forks charging stations

Fire breaks requested during public hearing over proposed Tesla stations
Fire concerns over a proposed Tesla charging stations was brought up during a public hearing on Sept. 11. Gazette file photo

Electric vehicles are bringing a whole new set of health and safety concerns for emergency personnel as Grand Forks City Council debated amending bylaws to address the issue.

Council gave third reading to bylaw amendment 2039-A31 and OCP Bylaw 2089-A2 simultaneously to work with Tesla to allow highway access, a parking lot and a high-charging station for electric vehicles at the corner of 19th Street and Highway 3 prior to consideration of the final adoption.

It was a rezoning request, but safety concerns surrounding charging stations was the main topic at a public hearing held before the regular council meeting.

Grand Forks Fire/Rescue Chief Jim Runciman said during the public hearing portion with this charging station possibly bringing in more electric vehicles, the firefighters he’s responsible for are concerned about the safety hazards they and the charging stations pose.

“What we are concerned about is there is nothing resembling recognized training for Lithium-ion battery fires and my comment was ‘surpassing our capacity,’” he said.

He stressed he had no problem with the charging station, but hazard mitigation is something he has to consider. Putting up some kind of fire break between the charging spots would help eliminate some of the danger. Even a cement block between each stall, or every third or fourth stall would help reduce risks in the event a fire were to break out somewhere in the middle.

There are blankets designed to smother the fire, but they cost between $5,000 to $8,000 each, Chief Runciman said. Those blankets can only be used once and he would be bringing up that in the fire life safety bylaw meeting in the fall.

The City received an application on May 9 to amend a zoning bylaw and the official community plan to allow a supercharger/Tesla Canada charging station, according to documents from City Hall.

This story will be updated.

About the Author: Karen McKinley

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