By Mike Kruzman / Tom Tolen /

A solar panel business in Brighton Township sustained significant damage following a massive fire Wednesday night.

Brighton Area Fire Authority Chief Michael O’Brian told WHMI that crews were dispatched to a possible building fire at a structure on Old US-23, just north of Spencer Road. Crews arrived to find a working fire inside a portion of the building at The Green Panel. O’Brian says the fire originated in a trailer parked inside that spread to multiple lithium-ion energy storage systems, or “ESS,” batteries. Chief O’Brian said the ESS units were stored and awaiting installation.

The blaze escalated to a third alarm fire due to the absence of fire sprinklers and fire hydrants in the area. The fire was said to have caused significant damage, with 3 units inside the building suffering fire and smoke damage, and another 2 having fire damage.

O’Brian said crews worked quickly to extinguish the fire. There were no injuries. Damage is estimated in excess of one million dollars – nearly $1 (m) million to the building and another $250,000-$300,000 to the contents. The cause is attributed to “the failure of a power tool charger battery, which ignited a nearby trailer that had lithium batteries stored inside”.

The Livingston County Disaster Assistance Response Team’s Facebook page thanked all county fire departments for pitching in in different capacities during the incident.

The National Fire Protection Association states that ESS systems are a common type of new installation that can provide near instantaneous protection from power interruptions, and are often used in hospitals, data centers, and homes. There are multiple ways the batteries can fail, including if they are exposed to external heat or other environmental damage, suffer physical damage, or are charged or discharged too quickly. They can take a lot of water to put out, and even run a risk of re-igniting hours, weeks, or days later, according to the NFPA.

(Photos courtesy of Mac Perrine)