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EDM Wednesday Briefing: Massive Bus Depot Fire Reveals Lithium-Ion Battery Risk

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for October 27, 2021: Applications for phase 2 of the home buyout program for the 2018 eruption of Kilauea begins Monday; nearly half a million people are without power across Massachusetts as a nor’easter moves across the region; a massive electric bus fire in Stuttgart reveals unpreparedness for lithium-ion battery fires and the risk they pose; an atmospheric river event in California doused the massive Dixie Fire; water levels in Lake Oroville rose 20 feet from Saturday to Monday; a major high-pressure gas leak forced an evacuation in North Lake Tahoe; increased volcanic activity sparked a more intense eruption at the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma; and recent data shows at least 40 volcanoes are erupting around the world.

  1. The 2018 eruption of Kilauea caused widespread damage and impacted a total of 294 primary residence homes and 318 secondary residence homes, making them eligible for a housing buyout program. Under the program, homes that were isolated by or inundated with lava, impacted by heat or steam, or affected by resulting fires from the eruption may apply to the Voluntary Housing Buyout Program. Phase 1 applications are currently being processed, and the application period for Phase 2 of the program begins on Monday, November 1, and closes on January 31.

  2. Nearly 450,000 residents are without power in Massachusetts, as a nor’easter moves across the region. The system intensified across coastal towns on Tuesday evening, as winds reached more than 60 mph with gusts of up to 94 mph. The high winds snapped trees and downed power lines, and a high wind warning remains in place until 5 p.m. Wednesday evening.

  3. A massive fire at a bus depot in Stuttgart, Germany, last month is believed to have been started by a new electric bus as it was charging. The massive fire was difficult to contain and destroyed 20 electric buses, sparking major concerns over fires originating from lithium-ion batteries. According to reports, the risk of the fires from spontaneous combustion of the batteries or from incidents involving the batteries has not been addressed. Firefighters are not properly trained or equipped to handle fires involving these batteries, as was seen when the batteries exploded in a Tesla vehicle that was involved in an accident in Baltimore last week.

  4. On Tuesday, October 26, the Dixie Fire in California was declared 100% contained after an atmospheric river – triggered by a bomb cyclone – soaked the area with precipitation, including rain and snow. The atmospheric river has now prompted secondary issues, including debris flows which closed Highway 70 through Feather River Canyon, erosion, and delayed suppression repair efforts. The massive wildfire, which burned nearly 1 million acres and was largely uncontained for several months, sparked widespread evacuations, destroyed 1,329 structures, damaged another 95, and caused one death.

  5. The California Department of Water Resource (DWR) announced that the Lake Oroville water level rose more than 20 feet since last week. An atmospheric river dumped large amounts of rainfall at lower levels, and several feet of snow in higher elevations across Northern California over the weekend and into Monday. The heavy rainfall and strong winds also triggered widespread flooding and rock slides, toppled trees, and broke a rainfall record in Sacramento, where 5.44 inches of rain fell in a single day.

  6. A gas leak prompted area evacuations in North Lake Tahoe on Tuesday. Residents were evacuated from a mile-long stretch of road from National Avenue to Beach Street and within a half-mile radius. Area roads were also closed and traffic was halted, until the North Tahoe Fire Department gave the all-clear early Tuesday evening. The cause of the major high pressure gas leak is still unknown, but crews were working to restore power to the area.

  7. An uptick in earthquake activity sparked increased lava fountains at vents in the Cumbre Vieja volcano that is erupting on La Palma in the Canary Islands. Lava fountains up to nearly 2,000 feet high were reported spewing from the main vent, along with dense ash and lava spattering from other vents. According to reports, four of the earthquakes registered between a 4.0 and 4.7 magnitude, while another 130 quakes registered at magnitudes of 2.5 to 3.9, all of which were recorded over a 24-hour period.

  8. According to recent data from Volcano Discovery, there are currently 40 volcanoes erupting around the world. Of those volcanoes, 11 are considered to be showing minor eruption activity, while the majority are are large, active eruptions. Numerous earthquakes have also been recorded beneath or near volcanoes, including several of which are already active volcanoes, such as Popocatepetl, Krakatau, and the Cumbre Vieja on La Palma. Most notably, earthquake activity was detected beneath Mauna Loa, with the largest number of quakes being recorded in California, including near Bear Lake (27), Lassen, Coso, and Mono Lake.


Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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