VFIS Training Opportunities – A Wealth of Information

November 6th, 2022

The Consolidation of Fire Protection Services in New York State Sept 2022

September 25th, 2022

The Consolidation of Fire Protection Services in New York State
A Primer September 2022

By: Lisa K. Parshall The Rockefeller Institute of Government

READ THE FILL REPORT HERE: Fire-Protection-Services-Report

Turnout Gear Service Life Guidelines Questioned

September 19th, 2022

Turnout Gear Service Life: Will We Ever Have Clear ‘Keep Or Retire’ Guidelines?

Jeffery O. & Grace G. Stull

There has been an ongoing debate ever since the original requirement for mandatory retirement of turnout clothing took effect with the 2008 edition of NFPA 1851: Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting. Many in the fire service found this requirement to be overbearing and without substantiation. They questioned the need for such a requirement, particularly when some structural gear may be subjected to very little use or has shown no evidence of serious damage even after 10 years.

The committee responsible for this requirement, which remains in effect through the 2020 edition of NFPA 1851, substantiates the need for changing out structural turnout clothing every 10 years for several reasons:

  • Significant changes in the protection technology occur in the 10-year period that has been linked to two 5-year revision cycles in NFPA 1971 for updating design and performance of turnout gear;
  • The inability to accurately assess gear performance where degradation in protection may not be visible; and
  • The accumulation of increasing amounts of contamination in gear over its use in structural fires that may not be removed by regular laundering.

While we don’t seek to resolve this debate here, we will offer a better understanding of what constitutes the usable service life of turnout gear.


The service life of any product is intended to represent how long that product remains viable and fit for use. It is generally defined by several years or months. Service life is based on the product being delivered in a new condition and cared for and maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions that include acceptable procedures for cleaning, repair and storage. This does not mean that the gear may not be ruined in use if subjected to severe exposures or rugged environments.

Structural firefighting involves ever-changing response environments and conditions, so the determination of what gear can be expected to survive is subject to interpretation. Even new gear can be exposed to extreme fireground temperatures that cause significant damage to render it unusable or unrepairable. Gear could also be contaminated to the point where cleaning and decontamination do not bring the gear back to a usable condition. Therefore, the actual service life for gear can be from its first use to whatever indicated period of time the department judges the gear as still being protective based on the results of Advanced Inspection performed according to NFPA 1851.

Service life differs from shelf life in that shelf life applies to gear that is not used but instead properly stored. Shelf life is akin to an expiration date where certain materials or components may break down due to environmental conditions like ozone exposure or natural deterioration over time.

Service life is also not related to manufacturer warranties. Warranties represent decisions made by manufacturers usually in terms of their manufacturing quality and what they consider reasonable continued usability subject to a number of caveats.


Critical to the service life discussion is the expectation that the gear will continue to provide protection at the necessary levels of performance. Key performance criteria include protection against clothing ignition and heat degradation in addition to thermal insulation and resistance to physical hazards. There is a wide range of other properties that define protection from hazardous liquids like blood and fireground chemicals that are balanced by the impact of the clothing on the wearer causing heat stress. The committee chooses test methods that are applied to individual materials and composites. The minimum results for these test methods are then set based on how different products perform in the field and are generally correlated with clothing that demonstrates acceptable field protection. The process for how these criteria is set often involves consideration of several factors and can be relatively complex. Nonetheless, collectively these criteria form the basis of minimum performance for gear when new.

It is important to recognize that performance criteria in the NFPA 1971 standard applies to clothing samples that are not worn. Even when samples may be exposed to various conditions like multiple launderings or low-level heat exposures, these preconditions cannot fully replicate the kind of impacts that actual wearing will create on clothing. Consequently, it is important to realize that applying NFPA 1971 criteria to used clothing can be complicated and can misrepresent the intended use of those requirements. This is because some performance criteria can be set higher than needed to account for the fact that the clothing performance can partially diminish in use and still provide a reasonable level of protection.


We know from experience that certain conditions of use and exposures can break down and reduce performance. Perhaps two of the most common examples are the inappropriate use of bleach on certain fabrics during cleaning and direct exposure to ultraviolet light. Excessive exposure to either of these conditions can radically reduce the strength of the fabrics to the degree that they will hand tear. Of course, proper cleaning and storage of gear can avoid degradation from these conditions. However, clothing is also subject to abrasion, various other physical hazards, high-heat exposures, and contact with different liquids or other substances. Some of these exposures break down material properties, such as strength indicated above; others can reduce barrier properties or adversely affect functional properties like moisture barrier breathability or trim reflectivity and appearance. Some loss of performance can be more subtle, such as repeated compression that can cause reinforcement layers to lose insulation or loss of repellent finishes that results in clothing with increased pickup of water weight, reducing some forms of heat insulation.

The degree to which the performance properties are reduced varies with the combination of different exposure conditions and can be affected by other factors, such as the accumulation of soils in clothing materials. For example, research shows that soiled turnout clothing can reflect less heat (i.e., it will provide less insulation to thermal exposures), soiled material composites provide less breathability, and soiled clothing is more likely to pick up water or other liquids, including contaminants.

The degree for which these changes are acceptable and affect service life is subject to considerable debate. In some cases, if samples were removed from the affected gear and subjected to the same NFPA 1971 testing that is applied to new gear, then it is possible in some cases and likely in other cases that NFPA 1971 performance criteria would not be met. Industry experts do not agree on what level of performance degradation would be considered reasonable for field-used gear and what level represents a potential safety hazard. For example, a significant drop in thermal protective performance that reduces insulation from heat should be an area of concern, as would permanent petrochemical contamination that renders gear materials flammable; however, a drop to just below the requirement for tear resistance could still provide a functional level of strength for providing appropriate protection.


Some relationships are already known for how gear performance changes from use without extraordinary exposures. For instance, unless contaminated, the types of materials used in turnout clothing generally retain near-new flame-resistance qualities. When gear is worn, layers rub against each other, causing small balls of fabrics and greater “loftiness” of the composite. This type of change increases thermal insulation but decreases breathability as measured by total heat loss. Many strength properties lessen through repeated laundering and use but may still retain sufficient strength level for keeping the gear intact. Water absorption resistance or water pickup will increase over time, but these changes are gradual. Barrier properties may or may not be reduced as films wear down or are damaged, but often can be repaired. These observations assist with framing gear performance expectations in terms of service life but do not create exacting distinctions. Ultimately, departments must apply judgment for whether gear use can be continued, also using the NFPA 1851 procedures for Advanced Inspection.

The reality is that without testing, most fire departments use visual cues and evaluate the cost of repairs versus replacement of garments as their primary means for assessing service life. While several studies have attempted to characterize protective garment performance after field use, the issue remains that no single reliable approach can truly make the “keep or retire” determination. That may change as more science is brought to bear from studies that better detail available inspection methods, as is now being undertaken by NIOSH in a multi-department study where they will be able to track gear history with gear protection changes.

For the time being, service life determinations will depend on the judgment of experienced fire department individuals and subject matter experts with input from the gear manufacturers. These determinations will further account for findings from NFPA 1851 advanced inspections and will most often be related to visible damage of gear following exposures to different hazards on the fireground. If there is nothing from the inspection results, observed damage, or judgment from the department authorities triggers removal of specific gear from field use, then the mandatory 10-year service life specified by NFPA 1851 will limit the maximum gear service life. Without hard and fast rules, most in the fire service are likely to err on the side of safety when there are doubts about continued performance.


August 28th, 2022

Download Here:  2022 AFDCA Fall Workshop Registration & Agenda

Westmere Fire District, 1732 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12203

Saturday, November 12th
7:00-8:00              Registration & Continental Breakfast
8:00-8:10              Pledge to the Flag & Welcome:  Capital Area Association Officers
8:10-9:15              Presentation Topic: Human Resources for the Volunteer Fire Service
Description: For any employer, the human resources department plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy and positive work environment. This is true for the volunteer fire service as well! This training will focus on the importance of HR within the volunteer fire department, and what types of challenges you may face, strategies to handle them, and best practices to implement in your department.
9:15-9:30              Networking Break
9:30-10:15           Presentation Topic: Fire District Purchasing
Description: A representative from the Office of General Services will give an overview of fire district purchasing. This training will cover a wide range of topics and equip commissioners on how to spend taxpayer dollars wisely.
10:15-10:30         Networking Break
10:30-12:00        Ask the Experts Panel – NEW AND REFRESHED! We’ve assembled a panel comprised of attorneys, a CPA, a VFBL expert and a general insurance specialist to answer your questions. This is an excellent opportunity to have all your questions answered about a broad range of important topics.
12:00-1:00           Lunch and Networking
Everyone is Invited to Attend
Not limited to Commissioners
Please Reserve your Seat Now – AFDCA Members $15, Non-Members, $25 Payable at the door!
Price includes all seminars, training materials, meals
To save a seat email Tony Hill at  Provide names, district and contact information.

EMS Cost Recovery FAQs

July 11th, 2022

The fire service organizations have issued information in the form of FAQs as well as included the final legislation that took effect on July 8th and note that it sunsets in 4 years. For those organizations that will be billing for EMS services we hope this helps your efforts.

EMS Cost Recovery FAQs

Election Schedule for 2022

July 1st, 2022

Open the link to the Election Schedule HERE: 2022 Election Schedule

Updated By-Laws Approved by the Board of Directors

June 10th, 2022

The Capital Area By-Laws have been updated and adopted by the Board of Directors at the June, 2022 meeting.

Highlights include; A new Associate Membership class which will welcome not only individuals but other county or regional associations, a redefined purpose, revised voting rights and a revised dues structure.  The new By-Laws are here: AFDCA By Laws rev 0622



April 14th, 2022

LGS-1 Records Common in Fire Districts (updated 2022)

  • The LGS-1 Retention and Disposition Schedule must be adopted prior to records disposition. In addition, prior to disposition, staff should consult the appropriate LGS-1 Schedule item cited to read full descriptions and review details on notes where indicated.
  • Review the LGS-1 Schedule to find records not listed on this document.
  • The LGS-1 introduction includes instructions, exceptions to the schedule, a sample resolution for adopting, Archives and other agency contact details.
  • LGS-1 HTML and PDF formats:
  • Contact 518-486-4823 or for assistance.


Why Do Volunteers Stop Volunteering

April 14th, 2022

Why do volunteer firefighters quit? According to research published by the National Volunteer Fire Council in September 2020, the top 3 reasons volunteer firefighters stop volunteering is:

  • because of leadership/failures
  • cliques and
  • training requirements

Former volunteers were surveyed to learn the reasons for their departure and were compared to the perceptions of current volunteer leaders and non-leaders alike. The perceptions had some commonality among each group. Current volunteers in both leadership and non-leadership roles felt the primary reason volunteers leave is due to lack of support and flexibility in juggling volunteer responsibilities with other life commitments. However, those surveyed who did quit identified that issue as less important. The primary reason for leaving was the “department atmosphere [being] full of cliques and groups that exclude others.” This was, however, the second most frequently identified reason by the current volunteer group.

The current volunteers also identified department leadership not focusing on or supporting the needs of members as another one of the top 3 reasons why they would consider leaving. Those volunteers that did depart cited the lack of camaraderie or sense of community among everyone in the department. And while current volunteers cited the lack of clear expectations on how much time and effort is required each week or month to meet training requirements, those who quit did not have this issue in their top 3.

The information derived from this section of the survey clearly identifies several problems in the industry. Leadership – either disconnected from the membership or not properly trained – has a significant impact on the entire organization. Some members of the organization mimic this behavior and results in the alienation of others. This type of problem is not seen as often in emergency service organizations with good leadership. And while this is only one aspect within the organization, it is critical factor to its success. These perceptions need to be explored and further validated by replicating and expanding on the research conducted.

Read the full research report from the NVFC by clicking on the link HERE:

Am I Lobbying, An Overview of the NYS Lobbying Act

April 14th, 2022


Lobbying is an attempt to influence a specific list of governmental decisions or actions. “Lobbying” and “Lobbying Activities” are collectively defined in the Lobbying Act, and include any attempt to influence:

(a) the passage or defeat of legislation

(b) the adoption, modification or rescission of an executive order

(c) the adoption, modification or rescission of a state agency regulation; or

(d) a decision related to a governmental procurement. Lobbying can occur at the State or local level.

Anyone who engages in such activity is a “Lobbyist” under the law. However, not all Lobbying must be reported. (See below). A Client is the person or organization on whose behalf and at whose request Lobbying Activity is conducted. A Client can either retain an outside Lobbyist to assist it in its Lobbying efforts, or it can utilize one or more individuals within the Client’s own organization to Lobby on its behalf. In the latter case, the organization would be both a Lobbyist and a Client. Every year millions of dollars are spent on Lobbying in New York. Clients retain or employ Lobbyists to influence government policies on topics ranging from energy and natural resources, to education, healthcare, labor issues, veteran affairs, transportation and other issues affecting special interests and members of the public.


For Lobbying to be reportable, two things must occur: (1) a Lobbyist has engaged in Lobbying Activity; and (2) such Lobbyist incurs, expends or receives (or reasonably anticipates incurring, expending or receiving) more than $5,000 in compensation and expenses related to Lobbying Activities in a calendar year. The $5,000 threshold must be computed cumulatively across all Lobbying Activities. In other words, if a Lobbyist has or reasonably anticipates having compensation and expenses adding up to more than $5,000 across all Lobbying Activities (including all Clients), then the Lobbyist must file reports disclosing such activity. Similarly, any Client that spends more than $5,000 on lobbying in a calendar year must file reports disclosing such activity.


Lobbying can occur in two forms: Direct Lobbying or Grassroots Lobbying. Direct Lobbying involves direct contact between a Lobbyist and the government official the Lobbyist is seeking to influence. Face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, distribution of written materials, e-mails, and social media interactions all fall under the umbrella of Direct Lobbying. Grassroots Lobbying is indirect and involves soliciting another to make direct communication with a Public Official. It often occurs through advertisements, rallies, receptions, social media or grassroots communications. For more information about Direct and Grassroots Lobbying, see the Commission’s regulations at 19 NYCRR Parts 943.6 and 943.7.


Grassroots Lobbying is essentially an attempt to advance a position by generating support and action from the public. In order for a communication to be considered Grassroots Lobbying, it must take a clear position on a specific “government action” and urge the public or a segment of the public to contact a Public Official in support of that position. For more information about Grassroots Lobbying, see 19 NYCRR Part 943 of the Commission’s regulations and Advisory Opinion 16-01 at www.


Procurement Lobbying is an attempt to influence a government contract or purchasing decision. The procurement in question must be for more than $15,000 for the Lobbying to be considered reportable under the Lobbying Act. A State or local government agency will often issue a Request for Proposal (“RFP”) describing what commodity it seeks to purchase. Vendors respond to the RFP by submitting a bid for consideration. Once a State entity posts an RFP, Lobbying Activity is restricted until the State or local agency has selected a vendor.


Gifts to Public Officials Lobbyists and Clients of Lobbyists are prohibited from giving gifts to Public Officials.

Public Officials generally include the four statewide elected officials (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller and Attorney General), members and employees of the Legislature, and officers and employees of State agencies, boards, departments, and commissions. Officers and employees of local municipalities with a population of over 5,000 also qualify as Public Officials under the Lobbying rules. For a more detailed definition of “Public Official,” see 19 NYCRR Part 934.2(q) of the Commission’s regulations. Generally, a gift is anything valued at more than $15; however, some items so valued may not be gifts. For a list of exclusions and other rules, see the Commission’s regulations at 19 NYCRR Parts 933 and 934. The gift restrictions are in place to avoid creating the appearance that a gift is being offered to either influence the Public Official or to reward them for performing their public duties.


Clients are prohibited from retaining or employing any Lobbyist when the Lobbyist’s compensation is based on the success or failure of the Lobbying Activity. The amount of compensation or payment a Lobbyist receives must not be dependent (or contingent) upon

the results a Lobbyist has with respect to influencing a Public Official. Similarly, a Lobbyist may not accept a contingent retainer. For more information about the contingent retainer prohibition, see 19 NYCRR Part 943.5(c)(2) and (3).


Registration and Reporting of Lobbying Activities

As a Lobbyist, if your Lobbying efforts exceed, or you reasonably anticipate they will exceed, the $5,000 threshold, you will be required to register with JCOPE and fill out Bi-Monthly reports that disclose the amount of money earned and expenses reimbursed for attempting to influence government actions. Calculating the $5,000 Threshold You (as a Lobbyist or Client) will have reached the $5,000 threshold if you incur, expend, or receive, or reasonably anticipate incurring, expending, or receiving, more than $5,000 in combined reportable compensation and expenses for Lobbying Activities on a State and/or local level per calendar year.

  • Money paid to an external Lobbyist, internal spending (salaries, business costs associated with in-house Lobbying) and expenses of purchases towards things like advertising are to be included in the calculation. Reportable expenses also generally include items such as postage and electronic advocacy listed on page 1.
  • Remember, the threshold is cumulative across all Lobbying Activities engaged in by a Lobbyist or Client.

Filing Requirements

Once an individual or entity has determined that its attempts to influence government decision making qualify as Lobbying under the Lobbying Act, registration and reporting may be required. Lobbyist Statement of Registration The Lobbyist Statement of Registration describes anticipated Lobbying efforts within a two-year (biennial) period. A separate Statement of Registration is required for each Client. The registration includes, but is not limited to:

  • An executed Lobbying Agreement form, as provided by the Commission, or copy of a signed Lobbying agreement/contract (or written authorization to lobby if no contract exists), detailing the start and termination dates of the Lobbying Activity and the amount of compensation a Lobbyist will be paid by the Client;
  • Name of the Principal Lobbyist;
  • Client name and contact information;
  • Names of the individuals who are authorized to Lobby;
  • Subject matter for anticipated Lobbying;
  • Targets of the expected Lobbying, including the person, organization, entity, or legislative body before which you expect to lobby;
  • $200 filing fee


A Lobbyist must file Bi-Monthly reports every other month. These filings report the actual activity undertaken by and the compensation and expenses reimbursed to the Lobbyist during that time period. Bi-Monthly reporting is required even when no compensation or expenses have occurred during the required reporting period. There is no filing fee

required for submitting a Bi-Monthly report.

Client Reporting Requirements

Clients must file a Client Semi-Annual Report (“CSA”) twice a year. This requirement includes those Clients who Lobby on their own behalf. A CSA report reflects actual Lobbying Activity during the preceding six month period. A $50 filing fee is required for this report. Any required source of funding reporting is done as part of the Client Semi-Annual report.

Other Lobby-Related Activities Subject To Disclosure Under The Lobbying Act

Reportable Business Relationships

Lobbyists and Clients are required to publicly disclose information regarding business relationships where a State Person, or entity in which a State Person has Requisite Involvement, receives more than $1,000 in annual compensation from either the Lobbyist or Client. For more information, see the Commission’s regulations at 19 NYCRR Part 943.14.

Source of Funding

Organizations that devote substantial resources to Lobbying in New York may be required to disclose their funding sources. The Source of Funding Disclosure requirement provides the public greater transparency regarding which entities and individuals 4 are financially supporting Lobbying efforts in New York. The disclosure of Sources of Funding can be required of both Lobbyists who Lobby on their own behalf and Clients who devote substantial resources Lobbying in New York. For more information, see the Commission’s regulations at 19 NYCRR Part 938. [fire district funding comes from the taxpayers, so does dues paid to State Association and Local Associations]

Disbursements of Public Monies

Public monies are funds previously appropriated as part of the enacted State budget, which are designated for programs, grants or are discretionary funds and have not been allocated to specific recipients. Lobbyists already registered with JCOPE must file separate reports disclosing the reportable compensation and expenses associated with attempts to influence a disbursement of such public monies if compensation and expenses exceed $5,000 in a year and the public monies sought exceed $15,000. This is in addition to the $5,000 threshold for Lobbying.

Some of the Challenges that Your Fire Company Members are Dealing with!!

March 13th, 2022

6 Steps To Safe, Effective Solar Panel, ESS Fire Attack

Richard Burt

[With more of energy storage systems appearing in your district, your firefighters need to be aware of how these systems react in a fire, are they informed?]

Basic firefighter strategies and tactics needed to mitigate a residential structure fire have changed with the installation of thousands of solar panel and battery storage systems in homes across the United States. As such, firefighters need updated training that addresses the presence of this technology. Let’s review a bread-and-butter approach to mitigating a residential structure fire involving solar panel and battery storage systems.


On a residential structure fire where an aggressive interior fire attack strategy has been declared, one of the initial benchmarks for command is to control utilities. This critical task needs to be accomplished so that the firefighters inside the structure can safely complete a primary life search, locate and extinguish the fire, and contain it to the room of origin.

Fire service training on electrical utility control and extinguishment has evolved little in the past 100 years. However, the introduction of alternate energy systems has changed where power flows and how it is made safe. With this in mind, the following six critical simple steps can impact firefighter life safety and lead to the successful mitigation of the incident.

  1. Complete a 360 to locate ESS:The-first arriving member should complete a 360-walkaround of the building, if possible, to locate any solar panels and or energy storage systems (ESS) present. Many such systems will be located outside, in a garage or basement depending on the region and building codes.

The one common thread across the country is that building codes require a placard be installed on the outside of the residence indicating to firefighters that a solar/battery system has been installed and where the system and shutoffs are located. This placard is usually placed on the electrical utilities box on the exterior of the house or on the system itself if it is located outside.

  1. Turn off all systems:The unit assigned to control utilities needs to understand that electricity to the home is only isolated once the main breaker from the grid utility and the DC/AC disconnect from the solar and storage have been turned off. Turning off only the main utility breaker will activate the backup battery to the home, so it is imperative to turn off all the systems to eliminate the possibility of the interior firefighters receiving an electric shock.

If the ESS is on fire and firefighters need to gain access to it, whether it is in the garage, basement or located outside, the damage from direct flame impingement can cause the system to start degrading and may cause thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is the process where self-heating occurs faster than can be dissipated, resulting in vaporized electrolyte, fire and/or explosions.

If the battery is in a confined space and exposed to any internal or external heat above 150 degrees F, then it is critical that firefighters ventilate the space first. Once the space has been adequately ventilated, firefighters can attempt to extinguish the fire if needed and then evaluate whether the ESS needs to be isolated.

  1. Be smart about ventilation tactics:If the incident commander (IC) calls for vertical ventilation to help interior crews complete their life saving functions, firefighters need to be aware of two important facts. First, electricity can be produced by the solar panels day or night depending on the light source. In a UL study, 800V and 340mA were measured coming from a 1000V array at night. The light source creating this electricity was from apparatus spotlights directed at the solar panels. With the capability of solar panels to create electricity day or night that travels through conduit, firefighters should not cut, damage or touch any part of the system.

Second, if the conduit is hidden, which it normally is for aesthetic reasons, a firefighter cutting a hole in a roof unaware of the conduit’s location could easily be exposed to an electrical shock. The simplest and safest strategy is for firefighters to stay off the roof. They should be instructed to not touch the panels or conduit and only vertically ventilate if they can locate a stable part of the roof that is clear of the solar panels and conduit.

If a roof is discovered to have multiple solar panels covering the majority of it, the IC should immediately consider using vent, enter, isolate, search (VEIS) or horizontal ventilation.

  1. Commence fire attack – from a distance:If the solar panels on the roof of a residential structure are burning, firefighters need to understand that the back of the solar panels are made of combustible material and can burn very easily. They also need to recognize that a large volume of fire in or around the solar panels could mean the roof is burning as well as the panels that may lead the IC to call for a defensive operation.

Firefighters can safely extinguish the fire by applying a straight stream from a minimum of 20 feet away or use a fog pattern from 5 feet away. Grid utility electricity coming from the local power company to the house has not changed and the firefighters need to recognize this and follow their standard operating procedures (SOPs) for working with existing residential utility electrical service. Foam is not needed to extinguish a solar panel or battery fire. In fact, testing has shown that plain water is the most effective tool.

  1. Apply the same strategies to a battery fire:If a battery is burning or involved in a residential structure fire, whether it is in a garage, the side of a home or basement, firefighters can apply the same fire flow principles as the solar panel fire. Specifically, if the battery is in a confined space, firefighters should first effectively ventilate the area, then approach it in full firefighting PPE, including SCBA, and start flowing water at a minimum distance of 20 feet with a straight stream.

As the crew advances, they can switch to a fog pattern to safely extinguish the fire from 5 feet away. Firefighters need to approach the battery from the side because the solid metal casing covering the front of the battery will deflect the water stream away from the burning cells.

A note on temperature: When actively burning, batteries can produce temperatures in excess of 1,200 degrees F, and reach thermal runaway temperature between 300 to 400 degrees F. The batteries can start degrading at temperatures as low as 200 degrees, causing them to produce combustible toxic gases that will need to be aggressively ventilated. If the battery is stored in a confined area, like a closet or basement, and has been exposed to temperatures above 150 degrees F, it is critical that firefighters adequately ventilate the area first before making entry.

  1. Perform overhaul – carefully: After a residential fire involving solar panels and batteries has been extinguished, firefighters must be cautious during overhaul.

Solar panels need to be evaluated by a certified electrician after every structure fire because of the possible damage to them and the wires that run through the conduit to the charge controller or inverter. Firefighters should not touch any part of the system until this has been accomplished. The two exceptions are if the firefighters can cover the panels without coming in direct contact with either the panels or conduit, or if the fire started at night and the panels are not being exposed to any sources of light. Black plastic sheeting at least 3-mm thick or traditional canvas tarps are highly effective for completing this overhaul technique. Covering the panels at night with no exposure to a significant light source can help the homeowner because of the possibility of a delay in contacting a certified electrician.

After a battery has been extinguished, firefighters should keep flowing copious amounts of water on the battery to cool it down to ambient air temperature. Cooling the battery after extinguishment will reduce the possibility of a chemical reaction occurring in the damaged battery cells. If the cells are not sufficiently cooled, temperatures could rise and lead to thermal runaway. Burn tests with lithium-ion Batteries have shown that damaged battery cells can create enough heat to cause a fire even 72 hours after being extinguished. It is impossible for firefighters to determine the amount of stranded energy present in a damaged battery, so they must follow key safety protocols: Wear full PPE with SCBA, do not touch the battery, and wait for a certified electrician to evaluate its state of charge and supervise its removal from the structure if necessary. The IC should explain all of this to the owner (if they are on scene) and recommend that they immediately contact their installer or a qualified electrician.

The fire service needs to be proactive and start reaching out to the solar and storage industry, so firefighters have a resource to contact if a homeowner is not available on scene. The local electrical utility companies are only responsible for the connection to the house from their utility lines and will not be able to help.

Powers and Duties of a Fire Commissioner

March 9th, 2022

[NOTE: In many instances the cited section may not be printed in its entirety and to gain complete understanding of the permissions and limitations the entire section of the law needs to be read and understood.  In addition, this may not be an all-inclusive list of the powers and duties of Fire District Commissioners but is a comprehensive representative example of their responsibilities.    There are many more applicable laws and sections of State law that mention the Board of Fire Commissioners and their rights and responsibilities, but applicability is secondary and cannot be completely discounted. When questions arise exhaustive research should be performed and professional legal counsel should be sought.]  Note, this is a 12 page document.

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