Officials say there is a massive fire at a chemical facility in Passaic. Crews are still on the scene
Officials said the storm was now under control in a industrial complex in Passaic on Friday night, causing large flames into the air and heavy plumes of smoke that could be seen from New York City and even on weather radar.
Firemen are still on scene pouring water onto areas of the complex still smoldering, according to officials. Another concern is keeping existing flames from reaching an area where chlorine is stockpiled a development that might cause evacuations of nearby neighborhoods.
Firefighters battled the 11-alarm blaze at the Majestic Industries warehouse and Qualco pool chemical facility on Passaic Street. The weather was so cold, the water they poured onto the buildings froze in the air.
Environmental officials said the air quality in the area is at acceptable levels, and nearby residents have not been evacuated, according to Passaic Mayor Hector Lora. But he asked neighbors to keep their windows closed for safety.
Residents can come outside, but should not come to this area, Lora said.
According to officials, a firefighter was taken to the hospital for an eye injury as a result of falling debris.
Officials said seventeen others were injured in the fire because of slips and falls on ice that had formed under their feet while shooting water onto the fire.
Police say hundreds of firefighters from all over the country have been able to avoid the explosions. Qualco, a company that manufactures pool and spa products, provides chlorine pellets for pools, has recently reopened.
Had it hit the main plant, it would have been, at the least, a major incident, Lora said. There would have been many evacuations of many, many individuals.
Firefighters were still on the scene at 9:30 a.m., putting water on the blaze so it won't spread to the chlorine stockpile.
Patrick Trentacost, the fire chief at Passaic, said a small amount of chlorine had been consumed on the site.
The blaze is under control and contained, but is stubborn, according to Trentacost.
He said it's too early to determine the cause of the fire.
The chief said the firefighters will keep shooting water onto the complex until Saturday night.
Trentacost said it wasnt as bad as the inferno at Atlantic Recycling last year, and it was not as bad as the a fire on Labor Day in 1985, which destroyed one-quarter of the city's industrial base on the Eastside.
Every fire is unique and presents its own set of challenges, said the chief.
In this case, its a fight to keep the fire from spreading to the chlorine facility coupled with extreme temperatures, according to Trentacost.
The complex, which dates to 1906, was empty except for a security guard when the fire broke out around 8:15 p.m. Friday night.
The mayor said the fire is believed to have started in Majestic Industries' warehouse, which is one of two buildings on the site, along with Qualco's facility.
The majority of the complex has since collapsed, according to the director.
Both Majestic and Qualco have immediately returned messages Sunday morning seeking advice.
On Saturday morning, Passaic Engine 3 was fire-hit at a chemical plant in Passaic.Dave Hernandez | For NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
As firefighters spray water onto the fire, the runoff and overspray starts to freeze Saturday morning.Dave Hernandez | For NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Firefighters have faced severe windfall and plummeting temperatures. Water has been freezing under their feet, and huge icicles are hanging off one side of the building.
Were doing everything we can to support our firefighters in the process of returning them to work, Trentacost said. But fighting the elements has been really tough.
The chief said there were a few minor explosions from propane tanks early on, but that was to be expected, and it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Lora urged residents to be vigilant to avoid fires as a result of extreme temperatures.
Its times like this that you really appreciate the heroic efforts of our firefighters," the mayor said.
Saturday morning, firefighters continue to battle the fire in frigid conditions.Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media
The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA) has stated that it is on the scene to assist air surveillance, along with the Department of Environmental Protection. The results are within acceptable levels, according to the EPA.
According to the federal agency, five air surveillance systems have been established to measure for chlorine and other contaminants.
Our emergency responders have been able to conduct air monitoring to safeguard residents from potential chlorine exposure following the chemical plant fire. Results are below acute risk levels and monitoring continues.
Police have cordoned off roughly a half-mile zone around the complex, which is in a densely populated area, a mix of old factories and homes.
Officials had closed sections of Route 21 on Friday night due to the fire; all lanes have now been reopened, according to the state Department of Transportation on Saturday morning.
In the meantime, a smoke cloud has slowed across the Passaic River.
Saturday morning, firefighters are still fighting the blaze in frigid temperatures.Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media
Fire contractors from across the country are available to assist.
A fire on Aycrigg Avenue in the heavily orthodox Jewish Third Ward ended Saturday, causing some annoyance in the boiler room. Many of the residents were unaware of the huge inferno in their town.
As close to 100 out-of-town firefighters began unraveling hoses, Moshe Jacobs, 21 shook his head in disbelief.
I was wondering why all these fireman were here, Jacobs said.
Residents are doing early-morning grocery shopping at the C Town near City Hall. A trash hauler took care of a nearly empty Market Street while chasing fire.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-9th who represents the area in Congress said he promises federal officials to "make sure Passaic has everything they need to protect our neighbors."
We are faced with extreme and most dangerous winter fires in Passaic, according to Pascrell.
Saturday morning, firefighters from across New Jersey continue to battle.Amanda Brown| For NJ Advance Med
Firefighters in New Jersey continue to fight the fire Saturday morning.Amanda Brown| For NJ Advance Med
The staff member of NJ Advance Media has contributed to this report.
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