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Solar Panels Ignite in Rocky Hill Business Park, One Firefighter Injured

By Barbara A. Preston | May 2, 2022

Roof-top solar panels spontaneously burst into flames atop a Rocky Hill business park building on Saturday, April 30, at about 5:22 pm. Luckily, an airplane pilot en route to Princeton Airport reported the smoke, and notified emergency services.

The Rocky Hill Fire Department, and Montgomery Township Volunteer Fire Departments No. 1 and No. 2 were dispatched for a smoke condition first to the area of Wall Street and Route 206, based on the description by a pilot flying overhead.

Within minutes, the Montgomery Township Police Department located the fire at 5 Crescent Avenue in the Princeton Business Park, which is actually in Rocky Hill Borough. All units were redirected with Chief 53 Todd Harris and Rocky Hill Engine 53-1 first to arrive.

Photos courtesy of the Rocky Hill Fire Department.

Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the roof — where flames caused extensive damage to 30-plus solar panels and the roofing materials, with water damage to the interior of the building.

Upon arrival, Rocky Hill Fire Chief Harris established command, reporting heavy smoke and fire showing from the roof of building A, which is a one-story commercial facility.

A first alarm assignment was transmitted through Somerset County Communication Center, dispatching additional fire units from Kingston, Princeton, and Plainsboro to the scene with Griggstown, Hillsborough, and Hopewell as covers.

Crews initially forced entry and determined there was no interior fire, according to Chief Harris. Resources were then re-assigned to the roof, where crews advanced hose lines using ground ladders, and initiated an aggressive fire attack. Additional inbound engines were assigned to the water supply with aerials positioned on two sides of the building.

Rocky Hill First Aid and Rescue Squad 53 and Montgomery Emergency Medical Services Squad 47 established a pop-up medical station, providing firefighter rehab services and emergency transport if needed. Squad 47 used its new rehab shelter, which provided a clean organized location for EMTs to assess firefighters' vitals.

It was later reported a Princeton Township firefighter operating on the roof possibly came in contact with an energized panel causing a shock. When en route back to Princeton Fire Department Station 60, he started to experience discomfort. He was evaluated by EMS at the station and then transported to a medical facility where he was evaluated and later released.

Rocky Hill Fire Marshal Erik Mickelsen is investigating the-point-of-origin and cause of the fire. The assessment of damages and investigation are still ongoing.

Additional agencies on location were Montgomery Police Department, New Jersey State Police Kingwood Barricks, and Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G).


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