Firefighters Put Out Fire at Future Apple Data Center in Arizona

Investigators suspect incident was caused by problem with solar panels

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

May 26, 2015

1 Min Read
Firefighters Put Out Fire at Future Apple Data Center in Arizona
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Emergency crews Tuesday morning put out a fire on the roof of a building in Mesa, Arizona, slated to become an Apple data center.

It took about 30 minutes to put the fire out, Forrest Smith, deputy chief and public information officer at Mesa Fire and Medical, said. There were no reports of injuries, but between 40 and 50 people were evacuated from the building, he added.

Cause of the fire was undetermined as of early afternoon Tuesday, but investigators were leaning toward a problem with solar panels on the building’s roof. “We are suspecting it may have been some solar panels,” Smith said.

The fire did not spread to the building’s interior, but there was a partial roof collapse over the loading-dock area, he said.

About 100 firefighters were on the scene from Mesa and surrounding communities.

It is unclear how far along the data center build-out at the site has progressed. Apple representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

Apple and local officials announced the company’s plans to spend $2 billion on converting the former 1.3 million square foot manufacturing plant into a data center in February. They said the entire building would be powered by renewable energy, including solar.

The bulk of the solar energy in the mix would not come from rooftop panels, however. It would be supplied by a solar farm being built nearby.

The building used to be occupied by GT Advanced Technologies, a former supplier of materials for Apple’s smartphone screens that filed for bankruptcy last year. A legal dispute between Apple and GT ended with a settlement last December.

In January, a roof fire broke out at the construction site of an Amazon Web Services data center in Ashburn, Virginia.

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