A San Ramon couple burned out of their home when their Tesla burst into flames in the garage wants answers from the Fremont automaker. So far they haven’t gotten any.
- Yogi and Carolyn Vindum of San Ramon were awakened by a car horn in December
- They went outside to find smoke and flames billowing from their garage
- Their house suffered $1million in damage, and they haven’t returned since
- A fire inspection cited the Tesla’s electrical charging system as one of two causes
- The other cause cited was a fault in the car’s thermal management system
- There have been at least five incidents of Tesla vehicles catching fire, including one in which a man was trapped inside after the car ‘spontaneously combusted’
- General Motors has advised some Chevy Bolt owners not to leave their cars charging overnight due to the risk of fire
The roar of the fire can be heard in the early morning darkness. A loud exploding sound is followed by screams of, “The house is on fire!”
At first Yogi suspected the fire had started in his upstairs office where his computers are always powered up. He soon discovered that wasn’t the case.
“As soon as I saw flames outside, I knew it was in the garage. You can see flames coming from both cars… and when I saw my phone later that the charging had been interrupted, not completed,” he said.
He’s referring to two text messages sent to him by Tesla.
The first said: “Charging interrupted at 5:25 a.m. with battery at 180 miles.”
Moments later, a second message from Tesla: “Car alarm has been triggered.”
A photo shows what was left of his two Teslas, which were both destroyed in the garage.
Jason Levine of the Center for Auto Safety says unfortunately, such investigations can drag on a long time.
“They also have a bad habit of doing is not making transparent what’s going on,” said Levine. “So it’s actually rather unclear. Can the agency not get to the bottom of what’s causing these fires? Do they know and they haven’t had a chance to share that information? Is Tesla being obstructive? We just don’t know and that’s sort of the problem.”
An investigation by the San Ramon Valley Fire Department narrowed the cause down to either the 2013 Tesla battery or the vehicle’s electrical system.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into the batteries used in the 2012 and 2019 Models S and X. That investigation, which began 22 months ago, is still ongoing.
“Frankly disappointed that we have not been told why it happened and what Tesla is doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Yogi.
His insurance company, Liberty Mutual, has taken over the investigation from San Ramon Valley Fire. It too declined to comment.