Solar Panels ‘Played a Role’ in New Bedford House Fire
UPDATE: New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger sent a statement noting that the solar panels did not cause or help cause the fire, but said solar installations "present several new hazards" for firefighters. The full statement has been added to the end of this article.
NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford's fire department says no one was injured in a house fire that displaced one person and a dog in the city's far North End on Sunday evening — but officials say solar panels "played a role" in the fire.
Firefighters were sent to 47 Garrison Rd. after multiple 911 calls reported a fire at the home just before 6 p.m. Sunday, according to a release from the New Bedford fire department.
Engine 5 crews reported a "large volume of fire" coming through the roof in the back of the one story ranch house when they arrived, the release stated.
According to the fire department, solar panels at the front of the house "played a role" in the behavior of the fire and how it was suppressed, although New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger said the solar panels did not contribute to the cause of the fire.
Firefighters were able to fight the fire from inside the house after putting out most of the flames from outside with a hose.
The sole occupant of the home had already evacuated with their dog before crews arrived, according to the release.
They were evaluated by EMS workers at the scene, but did not need to be taken to the hospital.
No firefighters were injured in the incident.
The resident is being helped by the American Red Cross.
Following an investigation by the department's Fire Investigation Unit, the cause of the fire was deemed accidental.
No further details were disclosed.
The fire in New Bedford came just two days after a massive fire destroyed the Mattapoisett Boatyard and drew firefighters from all over southeastern Massachusetts to help battle the blaze.
Full statement from Chief Kruger about the role played by solar panels:
"The solar panels did not contribute to the cause of this fire. Solar panel installations present several new hazards that firefighters have had to adapt to when performing fire suppression activities. Solar panels are almost always energized so there is an electrical shock hazard. Solar panels also increase the dead load which is applied to the supporting members of the roof’s structural supporting members. It can be more hazard when they are installed on roof structures composed of lightweight construction, such as wood trusses, which was the case in this fire. Anytime a well involved fire is attacking any component of lightweight construction, it becomes a collapse hazard for firefighters performing interior fire attack. Solar panel installations have also changes our methods of performing vertical or roof ventilation in that you cannot perform this much needed tactic in proximity to their location on the roof surface."