safety forumLast Saturday, 30 firefighters and renewable energy professionals filled the conference room at the La Farge Fire Station to attend a Renewable Energy Safety Forum. Nicole Spinelli, Organic Valley’s On Farm Sustainability Program Coordinator, organized the event and brought in renewable energy expert and firefighter Dan Fink to speak to the group. While the fire that occurred at our Headquarters facility in May wasn’t caused by the solar photovoltaic system on our roof, the solar panels did impact the firefighters and the strategy they used to fight the fire.

The first session of the training was developed for renewable energy professionals to teach them about relevant codes and safety practices for installing renewable energy systems. It also included a great discussion among attendees about how solar arrays on homes and buildings should be designed to allow firefighters to access the building if a fire occurs.  As someone who doesn’t have a background in firefighting, it was really interesting to hear the professionals talk about the importance of roof access to ventilate a burning building. From a sustainability standpoint it might make sense to cover an entire south-facing roof with solar panels, but if your house catches on fire you’ll probably regret not leaving roof space so the firefighters can gain access!

pv safety forum

Troy Deaver discusses the fire at Headquarters

After a delicious lunch provided by our café staff, we had the second portion of the training that was geared towards firefighters. Troy Deaver, a fellow CROPPie and the Assistant Fire Chief for the La Farge Fire Department, started the session with a presentation showing how the fire progressed through Headquarters and the challenges firefighters faced during the fire. Dan Fink returned to the podium after Troy’s presentation to teach the firefighters how to recognize common renewable energy systems on homes and businesses and to discuss safety guidelines for responding to incidents involving renewable energy.

We were excited to have such an engaged group of firefighters and renewable energy professionals attend the forum. Big thanks to everyone who came and participated!