A fire involving a snapped utility pole and three electrical transformers sent smoke looming up over Lawrence Shopping Center in the 2400 block of Brunswick Pike (Business Route 1) for a couple hours this morning (Tuesday, April 17).
The blaze, reported about 10:05 a.m., involved an old utility pole located behind the shopping center building that sits closest to the Shabakunk Creek. The pole and transformers were engulfed in flames when Lawrence Township firefighters arrived.
Fire officials at the scene said there had been no reports of the utility pole having been hit by a vehicle. Given the age of the pole and the weight of the three transformers, officials said it was possible the pole simply snapped in half on its own.
With live electricity running through the wires still connected to the burning transformers, firefighters stood by while utility crews from Public Service Electric and Gas worked to shut off the power.
Concerned that the transformers might be filled with toxic PCBs that could get washed into the creek, firefighters still had to wait until PSE&G personnel confirmed that the transformers were actually filled with just mineral oil.
The fire was finally extinguished around 1 p.m.
The fire knocked out power to the nearby building, which is occupied by the Asian Bistro restaurant and other businesses, as well as vacant storefronts formerly occupied by the Simply Radishing restaurant and Strauss Discount Auto.
Power was expected to remain out to the building through this evening until PSE&G crews had erected a new pole and run new wires and transformers, fire officials said.