New codes help firefighters fight a fire in Southeast Portland home equipped with solar panels

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Portland Fire  RescueFirefighters knocked down a fire in a house with solar panels — which can’t be turned off — in less than 30 minutes. The panels were installed based on a new code written for just such a situation.Firefighters knocked down a fire in a Southeast Portland home this morning, maneuvering around solar panels that pose a threat of electrocution.

The operation went smoothly, with the fire brought under control in less than 30 minutes thanks to the solar panel installation, said Paul Corah, spokesman for Portland Fire  Rescue.

The panels were placed in accordance with a new Oregon building code that went into effect last year, requiring installers to leave space on the sides of panels and on the top of the roof to give firefighters room to put their ladders and cut out sections as needed to let heat escape.

Corah said the fire was the first time the new code was tested — and it worked.

If the panels had covered the roof, firefighters would not have been able to break it open: Solar panels cannot be turned off like other electrical sources. The fire would not have been able to vent and that would have made it worse, Corah said. As it was, the fire caused about $70,000 worth of damage.

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Lt. John Shafer

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