It's been almost a full week since a battery fire ignited on a solar farm in Jefferson County, and many things remain unknown. Now, state elected officials say they not only want answers, they want changes.
“When you roll up here and you have odd circumstances, it's incredibly difficult to make split-second decisions,” Deputy Director of Jefferson County Fire and Emergency Management Neil Rivenburgh said.
When crews arrived at the fire, they found a solar farm battery storage area ignited. Frankly, they didn't know what they were up against, what chemicals were in the air, or really even how to put it out.
“It’s definitely turned the attention to the need for some training for our local fire departments,” Rivenburgh said of the things that were unknown to fire crews that responded.
What You Need To Know
- Emergency crews say it took roughly eight hours of research before they had an idea of what they were dealing with at Thursday's solar farm battery fire in the town of Lyme
- State Senator Mark Walczyk said he is introducing a bill with Assemblyman Scott Gray that would require solar farms in New York to prominently post safety data sheets throughout the facilities
- Walczyk is also calling for a pause on new solar farm builds until there are answers to all the questions that have been asked
But state Senator Mark Walczyk said all of that information – what firefighters simply could not have known – should have been easily available, posted for crews to immediately find.
“They had six to eight hours of searching for good information about what was in all of these containers that were burning on site,” Walczyk said, calling that unacceptable.
He has now introduced a bill that would require all solar farms and battery storage areas in New York state to prominently display safety data sheets throughout the facility.
“So that we know exactly what's going on, what chemicals are involved and what's in which container where,” he said, adding that lives are in danger in such situations and responders cannot be going in unaware of what they are up against.
Walczyk is also requesting a moratorium on all new solar farm builds until a lot of questions get answers.
Assemblyman Scott Gray will draft matching legislation for the state Assembly. The bills will be discussed when lawmakers return to Albany in January.