Oh oh, Solar Panels on your roof may increase the risk of fire damage

I was having my annual backflow testing on the sprinkler system in the house.  The City of Redmond where I live requires sprinklers for my house, office, and beach house which means I have backflow prevention valves and i found a reasonable cost done by Linda Pfeiffer.

Linda Pfeiffer

A Women’s Touch LLC

State Certified B4287

Backflow Technician

Licensed, Insured and Bonded

When chatting with Linda we were discussing roofs and fire departments risk to getting up there, then she said the big thing now is the solar panels are changing how fire departments can fight a fire and whether they will be electrocuted.

Here is a story of a warehouse with solar panels was quite possibly completely destroyed because the environmentally sensitive solar panels.  Whatever environmental impact was accumulated was most likely undone by the fire.

Firefighters battling the massive 11-alarm blaze at the Dietz & Watson distribution center in South Jersey faced an unlikely foe during the fight -- solar panels.

A solar array with more than 7,000 photovoltaic panels lined the roof of the nearly 300,000 square-foot refrigeration facility which served as a temporary storage center for the company’s deli meats and cheeses. But the panels, while environmentally sustainable and cost-saving, may have led to the complete destruction of the warehouse.

Fighting the fire under bright blue skies Sunday, Delanco Fire Chief Ron Holt was forced to keep firefighters from attacking the blaze from the roof because of electrocution concerns.

"With all that power and energy up there, I can't jeopardize a guy’s life for that,” said Holt. Those electrocution fears combined with concerns of a collapse forced firefighters to simply spray the building with water and foam from afar.

Ken Willette from the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit that develops standards for firefighting, says electrocution is one of the hazards firefighters are increasingly facing fighting blazes at structures where solar panels are deployed.

We don't often hear of a data center fire.  When there is a fire, the electrocution risk from the UPS batteries will make people cautious.  Can you imagine how the fire fighting changes if the roof is covered with solar panels?

“The new paradigm is firefighters might encounter building systems they have little or no knowledge of,” Willette said. “It used to be homes and commercial buildings had roofs and walls and heating and ventilation systems that the fire service was used to dealing with…modern technology, both in building construction and these other alternative energy systems, have changed that.”

Something to think about when you are deciding whether to put solar panels on your roof or an adjacent piece of property.