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Semi trailer carrying five Teslas and one Subaru mysteriously goes up in flames

Elko County Fire Protection District Image used with permission by copyright holder

The vast sky above rural Nevada lit up when a semi truck carrying five Teslas and one Subaru mysteriously caught fire on eastbound I-80 in late September. No one was hurt during the incident, though the six cars were a total loss, and firefighters are still working to determine the cause of the blaze.

An equal amount of facts and assumptions gravitate around the enigmatic fire. Here’s what we know: the cars were parked on the second of two trailers being towed across Nevada by a semi. The driver stopped as soon as he noticed the rear-most trailer was on fire, disconnected it from the rest of his road train, and wisely drove to safety while the flames consumed the six vehicles. The truck and the cars on the first trailer consequently weren’t charred.

The incident happened close to Carlin, a small desert town located about 23 miles west of Elko. Volunteer firefighters arrived at the scene to find the six cars and the trailer they were sitting on “fully engulfed,” according to the Elko Daily Free Press. The Nevada Highway Patrol closed the eastbound section of I-80 the cars burned on to clean up the mess.

Firefighters, first responders, and members of the Nevada Highway Patrol have all declined to comment on the cause of the fire; the investigation is ongoing. However, a Tesla spokesperson told electric car fan site InsideEVs that the fire was caused by the trailer, not by the cars on it. How the company reached this conclusion, and whether it sent a team of investigators to the site of the fire, wasn’t specified. We’ve reached out to Tesla, and we’ll update this story if we hear back.

Photos of the incident published by the Elko County Fire Protection District on its official Facebook page suggest the fire didn’t start in the Subaru Legacy; it’s the least charred of the load, which includes at least one Model 3. Tesla’s conclusion that the trailer caught fire isn’t entirely implausible, because a trailer is more than a big piece of metal with tires on it. Car haulers also have their own electrical system, and their own braking system, which are both linked to the truck.

While it’s not impossible that the trailer caught fire before the cars, the Elko County Fire Protection District told InsideEVs it doesn’t know how Tesla reached this conclusion.

“The cause of the fire is undetermined at this point. The extreme heat generated by the fire has made it very difficult to determine the cause. I am not sure what basis Tesla has on saying it was the carrier,” said Linda Bingaman, a representative for the Elko County Fire Protection District.

We’ll update this developing story as new information emerges.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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