Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t Man BearPig – A massive fire has ripped through a new building development in London, thankfully untenanted and still under construction. Witnesses suggest the fire appears to have been concentrated around the building’s solar panels.
Large blaze breaks out at brand new block of £1million flats in East London ‘after solar panels catch fire’
- Flames engulfed roof of Bow Wharf building near Bethnal Green in East London
- Eyewitness said that the property’s solar panels appeared to have caught fire
- He told MailOnline: ‘Half the roof is either burned away or collapsed’
PUBLISHED: 21:00 +10:00, 2 July 2017 | UPDATED: 02:26 +10:00, 3 July 2017
A large blaze broke at a brand new block of flats in East London this afternoon with witnesses claiming the building’s solar panels appeared to have caught fire.
The trendy ‘residential waterside development’ – which is still under construction – contains five houses and 19 apartments which were set to sell for as much as £1million each.
One eyewitness who lives opposite the flats told MailOnline: ‘Half the roof is either burned away or collapsed.
‘They’ve got a crane with the hose on the flames. They struggled slightly at first with access because it’s right beside Regent’s Canal.
‘I noticed massive billows of smoke when I was leaving my flat so I quickly rushed back and noticed it was the building opposite.
‘It’s the new block of flats that’s been under construction for quite a while now.
‘The spread seemed concentrated around the solar panels on the top. It looked a bit like the solar panels were on fire.
‘Originally I thought the flames were coming from one of the nearby high rise blocks but then I realised it’s a new build that’s not finished yet so that was a relief.
This is not the first time rooftop solar panels have been implicated in a building fire. Solar panels are a known hazard for fire fighters;
Fire service raises solar panels shock concerns
9 May 2013
Fire crews in Devon and Somerset have been warned by bosses to be careful of solar panels at emergency scenes in case they get electric shocks.
Speaking about its new guidance, the service said: “The main hazard to be aware of is that the system can remain live even after it has been isolated, presenting the potential for an electric shock.
“There is also the danger of damaged solar panels falling from the roof.
“At incidents of every nature, the incident commander will carry out a risk assessment to ensure that all the potential hazards are taken into account to bring the incident to a safe conclusion.”
Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-22462664
While it hasn’t been confirmed solar panels played a role in this fire, it is certainly plausible. When the sun is shining the power produced by solar panels is substantial, more than enough to start or potentially accelerate a fire – especially if that power is concentrated through a short circuit caused by incorrectly connected wires, wires damaged by vermin, or a simple short circuit triggered by defective components.
Solar panels usually contain substantial quantities of extremely toxic metals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic – so it seems likely that burnt panels may present a toxic dust environmental hazard after a major fire.