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More and more homes in Hawaii have photovoltaic systems, which is like having a solar power plant on your roof.
Fire officials say when installed properly, PV system are no danger to the home.
“The general home owner should not worry at all about PV system as long as it’s installed by somebody who’s licensed and knows what they’re doing,” Energy Response Solutions owner and San Jose Fire Capt. Matt Paiss said.
The problem is when there is a fire, the standard firefighting tactic would be to have access to the roof to battle the flames, or to open venting holes.
So now, HFD is learning from the best and changing their tactics.
“This is the first large metropolitan fire department that’s chosen to train their entire department,” Paiss said. “What I’m teaching firefighters is the areas that still remain energized once there’s light on them.”
And the firefighters are attentive students.
“This gives us good information on the building construction hazards because that’s what this is. This is the element of building photovoltaic panels,” HFD Capt. Terry Seelig said.
Not only are firefighters learning about the photovoltaic panels on the roof, but more importantly, they’re learning about the circuitry that connects the home to the electric grid, and how to shut it off.
For homeowners with PV systems, if there is a fire, get out!
“No, I would not recommend that any homeowner try and shut off the power. We’re trained to do that, we’ll take care of it. We want life safety to be protected first,” Paiss said.
HFD is halfway through the 15-day training program where all of its 1,100 firefighters will learn about PV systems.