Yesterday, a fire broke out at an Apple facility located in Mesa Arizona, just outside of Phoenix,  which initially made lots of news. According to a video report from a local news channel, the fire spread rather fast and was believed to have been ignited by solar panels on the roof of this facility. Various news reports indicate that a dozen people were evacuated from the facility, and it took 35 minutes for the fire department to put out the flames. The Deputy Chief of the  Mesa Fire Department is quoted as indicating that the fire spread rather rapidly at the 1.3 million-square-foot plant but was confined to a section of the roof over a loading dock.

What is somewhat significant is that this facility was previously designated by former supplier GT Advanced Technologies to be a high volume plant for the production of sapphire glass. That plan was abandoned with the sudden bankruptcy of GT Advanced and Apple has since taken possession of the facility. In February, Apple announced that it would instead convert the Mesa facility into a world class, sustainable data center. At the time, Supply Chain Matters voiced its disappointment that Apple did not consider sourcing more manufacturing at this facility.

Such an incident involving an Apple facility was assured to garner both traditional and social media coverage.  As we pen this posting, Google had indexed nearly 100 different reports related to yesterday’s fire.  Apple stock also took a hit yesterday on the news.

It is not likely that this incident will be of any major concern to Apple’s supply chain teams but perhaps Apple’s facility teams will seek an in-depth investigation as to whether the solar panels contributed to the cause of the blaze.  Investing in the most modern, state-of-art energy and sustainably efficient mega data center probably needs assurances that solar panels will not erupt into flames.

Bob Ferrari