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How solar panels may complicate firefighting operations

FDNY discusses how solar panels complicate firefighting operations
FDNY discusses how solar panels complicate firefighting operations 02:18

NEW YORK -- Days after a fast-moving fire ripped through two homes in the Kensington section of Brooklyn, neighbors are eyeing solar panel safety after officials say they complicated response operations.

Two burned-out facades were all that remained of two private houses as city workers repaired a nearby fire hydrant. An employee from the Department of Buildings was also out on 3rd Avenue surveying the damage. Neighbors walking by stopped to look up at the charred windows and collapsed roofs.

"I hate to see it, it's a shame," said Gerald Ruotolo, who lives nearby.

On Friday night, FDNY officials said solar panels on one of the roofs posed a challenge during their response.

"Solar panels are great for clean energy but really complicate operations," explained FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. "It's quite difficult, requires additional tools to get through the panels and get to where the fire is at to put it out."

An FDNY spokesperson added that the weight of the panels also poses a danger in a collapse situation. A spokesperson says homeowners have to follow building and fire code when installing panels, and they have no reason to believe the panels were improperly placed on the roof of the home which was engulfed in flames.

Experts like Jim Bullock, a retired FDNY deputy chief, say as the solar industry continues to grow, fire departments will be forced to adapt.

"What will happen is the fire department will get a little more efficient into getting it a little quicker because they will learn as they're going, but it's not a big thing you have to worry about. I wouldn't say don't get solar panels because of it," he said.

Bullock is the owner of New York Fire Consultants and the New York Fire Safety Institute. He said there are steps homeowners can take to ensure safety, including making sure the panels don't cover the whole roof and are filed with the Department of Buildings. He also urges homeowners to hire reputable installation companies to make sure the electricity is properly connected.

Officials said one woman was taken to the hospital on Friday and the cause is still under investigation.

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