A battery explosion at an Arizona Public Service (APS) substation injured eight firefighters Friday night. One firefighter was in critical condition and at least three of the hurt firefighters were airlifted to a burn unit.
According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, the four most seriously injured firefighters were from the Peoria Fire Department and four other firefighters with the Surprise Fire Department were transported to the hospital for evaluation of less serious injuries. Three Peoria firefighters were flown to Maricopa County Medical Center’s burn unit in Phoenix.
The newspaper reported the explosion occurred at the Arizona Public Service McMicken energy storage facility in Surprise. Large, utility-sized lithium batteries are used on the site for the storage and distribution of solar energy, the newspaper reported.
Firefighters were summoned to the substation at about 6 p.m. after a passerby reported smoke coming from the site, the newspaper reported. Peoria and Surprise firefighters responded, treating the call as a hazmat response.
As firefighters entered the facility, an explosion occurred, according to the paper, which caused chemical burns and chemical-inhalation burns to the Peoria firefighters.
APS officials said the issue was an equipment failure at the substation.
What sparked the explosion and malfunction is under investigation as crews remained on the scene late into Friday night.
A statement released by the APS said: "We had an equipment failure at our energy-storage facility in Surprise, Ariz. on Friday. The cause is still under investigation. During the response, firefighters from Surprise and Peoria were injured. Our top priority is the health and safety of those first responders, and our thoughts are with them and their families. We will continue to work closely with response agencies on the scene.”