The SolarCity complex in South Buffalo is getting intense attention from the Buffalo Fire Department, looking for safety in construction and operation in the future.

The mammoth plant is being watched as construction continues because firefighters have to approve some parts of construction, like sprinkler systems, and because firefighters have to know and understand the plant and what is inside, in case something goes wrong.

Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield says there is special concern because there are very exotic and very dangerous chemicals inside.

“They have very, very, very, very dangerous chemicals within the plant that are used in the production process. Some of those things are very volatile, lighter than air, but very volatile,” said Whitfield. “Some of them are air-reactive. Some of them are very caustic, are very dangerous if they get on your skin. So there are some very, very dangerous materials that are being brought into that plant.”

Whitfield says Fire Department and company are working closely together.

“We do have persons with expertise in that area. Again, we have met extensively with SolarCity developing our capacity, our expertise within our Training Division, within our hazmat division,” he said. “They’ve kept us abreast of every new technology that’s been introduced, every new chemical, every piece of new equipment, we’ve been apprised of.”

Whitfield says his department has firehouses nearby and there is a new South hazardous materials team to go with the unit which was citywide. The commissioner says those firefighters know chemicals and chemical fire and will know when to fight a fire and when to back off.

Author: Mike Desmond

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