Officials: Fire at Duluth home caused by solar panels

The blaze did $40,000 worth of damage.

Solar panels on the roof of a home in Duluth caused a fire that did $40,000 in damage on Wednesday. 

The Duluth Fire Department says a passerby noticed smoke coming from the roof of a home on the 2200 block of West 6th Street in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood and called 911. 

Police officers assisted the homeowner and her dog out of the home before the fire department arrived at 2:03 p.m. 

Firefighters found charred wood, dripping tar and smoke in the attic, determining the fire was coming from the area of the roof where there are solar panels.

They shut off power to the home and Minnesota Power responded to de-energize the solar panels, the release said. Crews removed the panels and continued to fight the blaze. 

The Duluth Fire Marshal's Office determined the fire was accidental, caused by the solar panels. Damage is estimated at $40,000. 

Bring Me The News has reached out to Minnesota Power for comment. 

The U.S. Department of Energy has a website dedicated to the safety of solar photovoltaics (PV), saying there are many steps required to ensure the safety of firefighters who are battling a fire involving solar panels. There's a special training program to teach firefighters and fire code officials about managing solar equipment as they put out fires. 

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However, these types of fires aren't all that common, with the Department of Energy saying "as with any electrical system, a PV system that is properly installed by a qualified vendor should not introduce any significant risk to your home."

The website notes there is no "clear data" on the number of fires caused by rooftop solar panels in the United States. But in Germany, a 2018 report says 210 of the 430 fires involving solar systems were caused by the system itself, noting Germany has about 1.7 million PV systems installed. The U.S. has about 1.8 million.

The Solar Energy Industries Association says it is "extremely rare" for solar equipment to cause a fire, but one may occur if there is "an improper connection or other electrical/fire hazards is present."

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