Ensuring firefighter safety while fighting fires on buildings with PV modules is another important issue.
The 2012 International Fire Code to be published in April 2011 includes a new section 605.11 specifying installation requirements for PV modules. This code specifies required markings, set-backs for access and ventilation, and the location of DC conductors. These requirements are based on the draft Solar Photovoltaic Installation Guideline developed by CalFire. The NFPA is also considering similar requirements in the 2012 NFPA 1: Fire Code.
Underwriters Laboratories completed an examination of fire service concerns of PV systems and the potential impact on firefighting operations. These concerns included firefighter vulnerability to electrical and casualty hazards when mitigating a fire involving PV systems. Though the electrical and fire hazards associated with PV systems have been known for some time, the fire service has been unable to develop safety solutions and respond in a safe manner due to a limited body of knowledge and insufficient data. This fire research project developed the empirical data that was needed to quantify the potential hazards associated with fire scenarios involving PV installations and to provide the basis for the development of firefighting operational practices to reduce firefighter death and injury. Click here for more information and to download the final report.
Other information resources:
CalFire developed a training program for fire fighters (PDF)
California State Fire Training (Web site)
Webinar: PV Safety for Firefighters (April 2010)
Solar ABCs Report, Understanding the CAL FIRE Solar Photovoltaic Installation Guideline, which also explains the changes to the International Fire Code.