Hundreds of firefighters were battling a major blaze at a chemical plant late Friday night in Passaic as the inferno sent smoke blowing across the region and prompted officials to urge residents to close windows.
Passaic Mayor Hector Lora, who was at the scene near Passaic Street and Columbia Avenue, said much of the fire burned in the Majestic Industries area of the complex, but has also spread to Qualco, a company that makes pool and spa products, including “chlorine pellets” used for pools, the mayor said. The blaze, he said, has not reached an area of the facility where chemicals, including chlorine, are stored.
One firefighter sustained injuries at the scene, Lora said shortly before midnight. No serious injuries had been reported, he said.
Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost said about 200 firefighters responded to the 11-alarm blaze from Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties. When crews arrived, they found “heavy, heavy smoke” and flames on the roof and upper floors of the Passaic Street facility.
“By no means are we under control but we are doing everything we can to contain it,” Trentacost said shortly before 11 p.m.
“We are monitoring constantly. We are have companies in the chemical factory and we are watching very closely where this fire is going,” the chief said.
Firefighters also asked for help from the local water company and fire boats to supply water to the scene, according to the chief. Members of several responding fire departments could be seen at hydrants in and around the city retrieving water.
“This is probably one of the worst fires I have seen in such a long time,” said Lora.
Lora, who is also Passaic public safety director, praised firefighters for managing to contain the huge blaze but said the fire was not yet under control.
“It is an extremely difficult and challenging fire,” the mayor said. “It is not anywhere near under control.”
“There are presently multiple buildings involved. It is at a chemical plant,” he said earlier from the scene.
Officials around the region and as far as New York City alerted residents about seeing and smelling smoke from the fire. The mayor said he spoke with Gov. Phil Murphy and state officials were assisting.
“As of right now, the fire has not impacted directly the chemicals,” Lora said.
Multiple videos shared on social media showed a building engulfed in flames. Lora later said in a video on Facebook that he was at City Hall preparing for possible evacuations.
“Be advised shifting winds may cause smoke from the working fire at a chemical factory in Passaic to pass over areas of the borough. Residents are encouraged to stay inside until the fire is under control,” the East Rutherford police said.
Gov. Phil Murphy also asked nearby residents to keep their windows closed as the fire continued to burn around 10:30 p.m.
“We urge everyone in Passaic to stay safe as firefighters battle a large eight-alarm fire at a chemical plant off of Route 21. If you live nearby, keep your windows closed. Praying for the safety of our first responders on the scene,” the governor said on Twitter.
Route 21 South was closed as of shortly before 9 p.m. because of the fire, according to the state Department of Transportation website. More details were not immediately available.
Last year, Passaic and surrounding firefighters battled a massive 11-alarm fire at a recycling plant in the city.
Staff reporter Jackie Roman contributed to this report.
Noah Cohen may be reached at [email protected].
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