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Officials: Solar Panels Made It Difficult To Fight Warehouse Blaze In Burlington County

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Cleve-Bryan-web-headshot Cleve Bryan
New Jersey Reporter Cleve Bryan joined CBS 3/CW Philly’s Eyewit...
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By Cleve Bryan

DELANCO, N.J. (CBS)—The fire scene is almost cleaned up in Delanco, but investigators are still learning more about what caused the fire.

They are also learning more about solar panels and how they played a part in the fire.

A 266,000 square foot concrete slab was removed as demolition continues at the Dietz & Watson site.

The work is expected to continue through January and questions remain in the community if the company will rebuild in Delanco.

Arthur Stewart of Willingboro says, “It would impact because that does something to the economy and for like I say jobs.”

Besides relocating Dietz & Watson employees for the time being, the towering fire that consumed the plant has created a second ripple effect throughout New Jersey. It has created awareness about the dangers of fighting a fire where solar panels are present.

Captain Joseph Vallo from the Jersey City Fire Department is an expert on fighting fires involving solar panels.

Vallo’s training schedule is packed since the Dietz & Watson fire where crews reported trouble with solar panels on the roof.

Captain Vallo says, “Each one of those 7,000 panels was live the whole time throughout the whole building fire.”

Solar panels not only present a shock hazard but their added weight to a roof increases the potential for a collapse.

Washington Township Fire Chief John Hoffman says his department has the equipment needed to fight fire involving solar panels – but he wants his crews to learn all the latest tactics.

“It’s a matter of time and whether a fire occurs because of the solar panels, or a fire occurs for some other reason in a building where there’s solar panels located. It will offer some unique challenges for you.”

A Dietz & Watson spokesperson told Eyewitness News that their intent is to rebuild the plant, they are just not sure when, what scale or if it will be in the same location.

Dietz & Watson’s plant in Delanco accounted for about four percent Delanco’s tax income.

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