Boulder Solar Panels Deal Protects Firefighters

In the event of a house fire, solar panels make it harder and more dangerous for firefighters to go on the roof to cut ventilation holes, reports The Daily Camera.

That’s why the 2012 International Fire Code that the Boulder City Council is set to adopt calls for three-foot-wide, solar-panel-free paths from the gutters to the ridge lines and three-foot-wide paths along the ridge lines of new homes.

But members of the Colorado solar industry said the requirements would reduce the number of solar panels that many Boulder homeowners could install so much that it would no longer be a worthwhile investment for many people.

The Boulder Fire Department met with industry representatives, and they worked out a compromise that officials say will still protect firefighter safety while leaving more of the roof available for panels.

Boulder Chief Fire Marshal David Lowrey said he first sat down the operations team at the fire department to talk about how they work on roofs during fires.

Lowrey said that with the department’s practices, firefighters felt comfortable amending the code to allow for smaller and fewer paths.

The amendment allows for 30-inch paths, with the paths in the middle of roofs wherever possible.

Paths on the outside edges of roofs are more dangerous, especially at night, Lowrey said.

Having the paths in the middle also makes it easier to cover solar panels with tarps to turn them off and reduce the risk of electric shock.

Lowrey said that width gives firefighters enough room to operate, while allowing more solar panel coverage.

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