Solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses are presenting a safety risk for firefighters, and in some cases buildings have been left to burn because that was the safest way to deal with a fire. Prince George’s County, MD, Fire Battalion Chief Donny Fletcher said when firefighters see solar panels on a building, “It changes everything about our strategies and tactics“:
“It changes everything about our strategies and tactics,” said Prince George’s County Fire Battalion Chief Donny Fletcher.
Firefighters risk electrocution if a home can’t be de-energized, and the added weight of solar panels on a roof means a building could be more likely to collapse:
Firefighters across the D.C. region say they’re facing increased danger as more and more homeowners install solar panels. Risks include electrocution if the home can’t be de-energized or a roof collapsing quicker under the weight of the heavy solar panels.
Solar panels stay energized as long as the sun is shining:
Electricity is unforgiving when hit with water or other firefighting tools. It’s a constant risk, Fletcher said. “The power that we cannot secure is the panels themselves — as long as the sun is shining they will stay energized,” he said.
In some cases, buildings have been left to burn because solar panels “create too great a risk to go inside”:
In some cases, the best thing to do is let the building burn if no lives are in danger and the panels create too great a risk to go inside, McKenna said.