A massive chemical fire broke out Friday night in Passaic, New Jersey, sending plumes of potentially dangerous smoke into the air and requiring residents to be evacuated from the immediate area.
According to Mayor Hector Carolos Lora, who was on the scene, the fire at a warehouse at 225 Passaic Avenue triggered three alarms just after 9 p.m. By 11 p.m., it had grown into an 11-alarm fire and spread to several nearby buildings.
“There have been severe fires, but this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Lora said.
At least one firefighter was injured and taken to hospital, the mayor said.
The building collapsed around 10:40 p.m., according to reports. The address is according to the website of Qualco, Inc., a swimming pool chemical company.
Lora said firefighters were working to stop the fire from spreading to the Qualco building’s main factory, where chlorine pellet storage remained the biggest threat.
“There are chlorine pellets that pose a real danger as the fire continues to rage,” he said on Facebook. “Some of Qualco with pellets is affected, but most of the plant is not.”
More than 100,000 pounds of spent chlorine pellets affected, according to reports.
Lora asked residents to avoid the area and keep their windows closed due to the potentially dangerous effects of the chemical fumes.
“This is a chemical fire. You will see the color in the sky,” he said.
harrowing videos posted on social media showed the huge plumes of smoke blowing in the wind on a frigid night where temperatures were as low as 20 degrees with a wind chill of 0 degrees, according to Accuweather.
The eruption produced so much smoke that it was visible on the weather radar, which stretched more than 50 miles (80 km) into the Atlantic Ocean, the meteorologist said. Craig Ceecee.
New York City residents were warned they too could see and smell smoke from the fire.
Passaic fire chief Patrick Trentacost said on Facebook Live that about 200 firefighters from Passaic, Essex and Bergen counties responded. Fire boats from other departments also responded.
Firefighters were tapping hydrants up to City Hall, blocks away from the blaze, the mayor said.
Trentacost said his department continues to monitor the threat posed by the chlorine in the fire, which he said was “out of control under any circumstances” at 11 p.m.
“We have some minor involvement with some packaging material, some small tons of chlorine, nothing to worry about at the moment, but we’re constantly monitoring it.”
The fire shut down Route 21 South, according to the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Governor Phil Murphy also urged all residents to stay safe and keep their windows closed.
“We are urging everyone in Passaic to stay safe as firefighters fight a major eight-alarm fire at a chemical plant off Route 21. If you live in the area, keep your windows closed. Pray for the safety of our first responders on the ground.”
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire.