Solar panels on Holmdel Hobby Lobby roof catch fire for second time

HOLMDEL – The Hobby lobby was temporarily closed on Saturday after solar panels caught fire on its roof for the second time in less than a year, authorities said.

A Holmdel firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion and released. And the store suffered water damage, said Eric Hernando, chief of the Holmdel fire department.

“The sun is shining today, it’s nice and bright,” said Hernando. “But as long as the sun (the solar panels) is shining, they continue to receive energy. They are always a challenge that needs to be put out.”

The Hobby Lobby is part of the Holmdel Towne Center on Route 35. Other tenants include Marshalls, PetSmart and Texas Roadhouse. The center is operated by Kimco Realty Corp. operated.

Kimco officials could not be reached immediately on Saturday.

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The fire was reported at 11:14 a.m. and brought activities in the mall to a standstill.

Haley Meggison, a cashier at the Buy Rite liquor store next to the Hobby Lobby, said she and her staff were evacuated for about an hour before the fire was put out and they were allowed to return

“There weren’t any flames or anything so I’m not sure how big the fire was, but obviously there was a lot of smoke,” Meggison said.

Hobby lobby staff gathered in the parking lot, but company officials said they couldn’t comment.

Holmdel’s fire, police and first aid departments were supported by relief teams from Hazlet, Keyport, Union Beach and Tinton Falls, Hernando said. The Monmouth County Fire Marshal was also on site.

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When the crews arrived, it took about 10 to 15 minutes to put out the fire, Hernando said.

Solar panel fires are not uncommon, he said. In fact, last May, another set of solar panels caught fire on the same roof, resulting in another evacuation. The nearby shops were up and running again within two hours.

Solar collector fires are “difficult to put out because you can’t turn off the sun,” said Hernando. “There is nothing to be done to stop the energy from coming in.”

Michael L. Diamond can be reached at [email protected]

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