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Solar panels can endanger firefighters' lives, CBC News reports

An Ontario fire chief says that solar panels can hinder his crews' ability to cut a vent in a roof when fighting a fire, posing the risk of electrocution.


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October 30, 2013 by Brynna Leslie

Ontario firefighters are speaking out against solar panels, saying this new building trend in the province is making it more difficult to fight fires.

“Many of the newer homes are constructed with light-weight construction materials,” Kingsville fire chief Bob Kissner told CBC News. “They’re extremely strong but they don’t behave well in fire conditions. If we have solar panels, it adds weight to the roof. The most important thing is to make sure the structure is able to handle the weight.”

Kissner and others have  noted that solar panels can affect firefighters’ abilities to cut a vent in the roof in a fire situation and pose risk of electrocution.

Solar panels have become quite popular in Ontario, especially in rural areas and new suburbs, since the province introduced its feed-in tariff program in 2006. The program allows homeowners to collect energy from alternative sources, such as solar and wind, and feed excess energy back into the grid for a financial credit.

 


Brynna Leslie

Brynna Leslie

Brynna Leslie, contributing editor to Canadian Contractor, is a freelance journalist based in Ottawa.
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3 Comments » for Solar panels can endanger firefighters' lives, CBC News reports
  1. Peter Goulimis says:

    In order to address these legitimate concerns for firefighters; let’s pause and reflect before throwing out the baby with the bathwater!
    As the trends has indeed been to leaner lighter homes to keep costs down, we have also moved to EnerGuide80.
    As such, is not also time to improve the general minimum code elements in the name of sustainability for things like;
    -residential sprinkler systems to mitigate catastrophic events (full burn down and spreading to adjacent in our dense packed subdivisions)
    -“passive haus” concepts such as double drywall (regular 1/2″ on walls and type “x” for all ceilings) would not only protect and help preserve the structure longer, but double as thermal mass
    -finally, if solar pv systems are being installed, mandate panel free areas appropriately placed for exclusive use by firefighters presumably for venting or water flooding from above.
    The net savings captured from each one of these additions would over the life of the home pay itself back and governments can help with initial offsets due to their savings in infrastructure investments, savings in reduced fire fighting expenses, home owners energy consumption & costs etc. so these initiatives may continue to spread safely for all! To make; you have to invest!
    Let’s figure out what we can do and implement these changes quickly to assure a strong solar industry at all levels of participation. It is a win-win by helping us reduce our GHG emissions and dependency on fossil fuels.

  2. Ian Awe says:

    Time for the Firefighter “heros” to think of more then just themselves. Solar panels are the future. We need more encouragement and promotion of renewable green energy. We do not need the overpaid firefighters getting in the way. The electrical code has already made changes to create a disconnect means for the panels. The weight of of the panels easily falls within roof design (most roofs are built for worst case snow loading). Lets go Solar… Lets go… (all together now). A sprinkler a day keeps the fire department away.