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Call Kurtis Investigates: Hundreds Of NorCal Solar Homes Could Catch Fire

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13's consumer...
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A Call Kurtis investigation looked into a potential fire hazard on hundreds of Northern California homes.

His team started looking into solar panels after an El Dorado Hills home caught fire.

We’ve learned these solar panels are on roof tiles of more than 200 homes in Northern California, including the Blackstone Community in El Dorado Hills.

But homeowners say no one is doing anything to replace these potentially dangerous tiles.

“It was kind of a feeling of helplessness,” said El Dorado Hills homeowner Aaron Barranco.

These pictures show the fire at Aaron’s home in July. Flames shooting from his solar roof tiles.

“That was surprising, I didn’t expect anything like that to happen,” said Aaron.

The fire happening even though his solar tiles were repaired 11 months earlier, in June 2012, after the Consumer Product Safety Commission warning surrounding certain “solar power systems manufactured by Applied Solar, Inc…. using Solarsave OE-34 solar panels.”

“The electrical connectors between the solar roof tiles can become loose, posing a fire hazard…”

And “three fires have been reported.”

The manufacturer, Applied Solar, went out of business in 2009.

The builder, Centex, carried out the repairs on Aaron’s home.  But then his home caught fire.

After that, they’ve suspended all repair work pending an investigation.

“I’m very angry,” said Jeffrey Perry, El Dorado Hills homeowner.

Leaving his neighbors and up to 250 homeowners with these solar tiles in limbo.

“So we’re all supposed to sit back and do nothing and just wait for them and how long is that wait going to be?” asked Alexis Moore, El Dorado Hills resident, who has been spearheading the effort to get these solar tiles fixed.

Homeowners have been told to shut off their solar systems until repairs are made.

But the city’s fire prevention chief says that may not cut down the risk.

“They’re always live, they’re always generating power.  As long as sun rays can reach the solar panels, they’re always going to produce power,” said Michael Lilienthal, Battalion Fire Chief, El Dorado Hills Fire Dept.

“It’s not enough to just say hey, turn off your solar system,” said Eric Ratinoff, consumer attorney, KCR Legal.

Ratinoff says under the home’s 10 year warranty, Centex should replace all of these potentially dangerous solar tiles.

“There are families that put their kids to bed every night in these homes and it’s a safety issue, and it’s one that can’t be ignored,” said Ratinoff.

Centex spokeswoman  Jacque Petroulakis told us it “was making the solar recall repairs at no cost to homeowners, even though the responsibility lies with the companies that manufactured and warrantied the product.”

After we got involved, Centex agreed to replace every single one of these homeowners’ solar tiles with another brand, at no cost.

Aaron’s insurance already replaced his.

He’s just glad his fire was contained to the roof.

“No one lost their lives, our house was saved,” said Aaron.

Centex says it plans to finish all the repairs by February 2014.

Read the CPSC warning (click on it to enlarge):

Solar Panel Fire CPSC Leter

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