A 300,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse in Delanco, N.J., burned down last week, and the local fire chief says solar panels are partly to blame. No, the 700 solar panels on top of the Dietz & Watson warehouse didn't cause the fire, but their presence did dissuade Delanco Fire Chief Ron Holt from putting his team on the roof. “With all that power and energy up there, I can't jeopardize a guy’s life for that,” Holt told NBC Philadelphia. The only thing firefighters fear more than fire is solar.
So long as a solar panel is getting sunlight, it's impossible to turn off. “During daylight, there can be enough voltage and current to injure or even kill a firefighter who comes in contact with the energized conductors," Matthew Paiss, a fire engineer with the San Jose Fire Department, wrote in a handy guide for firefighters. The Dietz & Watson warehouse fire started when the sun was out. By the time the sun went down, the fire was beyond control. The warehouse burned for 29 hours.
As Paiss explained in his essay on solar panels and firefighting, roof access is crucial for firefighters: