New Jersey

Massive 11-Alarm Fire at NJ Chemical Plant Contained

No injuries had been reported, aside from a firefighter who was hit in the face by debris at one point, officials said

A huge fire broke out at a New Jersey chemical plant Friday evening and burned into Saturday morning, sending massive plumes of black smoke billowing into the air.

The fire at the chemical plant in Passaic reached 11 alarms before midnight. Passaic Mayor Hector Lora went on Facebook Live throughout the evening to implore residents to stay away from the area near the fire. Lora also asked those who live nearby to close their windows due to the extreme amount of smoke.

Evacuations were not ordered, but were being considered, Lora had said. No injuries had been reported, aside from a firefighter who was hit in the face by debris at one point, officials said. A security guard is believed to have been the only person initially at the scene of the vacant building, and that individual was accounted for, according to the mayor.

Police blocked off streets in the area, and officers warned drivers to avoid the area, as they were fearful of a potential explosion.

By Saturday morning, residents living near the chemical plant were no longer being asked to stay indoors, the mayor announced. NBC New York's Myles Miller reports.

The 200,000 square-foot plant is located at 225 Passaic Street, near Route 21 and the Passaic River. The back structure of the plant did partially collapse in the very early hours of Saturday morning.

An official said that among the companies housed in the factory is a pool chlorine manufacturing company, and the biggest problem with a chlorine fire is wind. Strong wind gusts were blowing through Passaic as the fire raged on the frigid night, both elements that hampered the fight against the flames.

However, Mayor Lora told NBC New York that the fire did not reach the company that was housing the chemicals, crediting firefighters for preventing that from happening. A fire chief said that the portion of the structure where the chlorine was stored "seems to be under control." Had the fire reached the chemicals, then evacuations could be in order and the situation would have been much worse, Lora told NBC New York.

A large number of firefighters from surrounding towns were called in to help battle the flames, which shot up into the night sky and were easily visible from cars traveling on Route 21, which were passing just feet from the inferno. Video from social media showed the flames shooting even higher than the elevated highway, as cars drove past.

New York City officials said that smoke from the blaze may be seen or smelled in the city. The Department of Environmental Protection was in Passaic to monitor air quality, according to Lora.

Twelve hours after the first firefighters responded to the inferno, the response had been downgraded to 4 alarms as crews remained on the scene. Firefighters were still monitoring pockets of fire as the blaze had been contained to one part of a warehouse.

The mayor confirmed late Saturday morning that nearby residents were no longer being asked to stay indoors.

A cause for the fire has not yet been determined.

The 10-alarm fire in Passaic forced streets to be closed, and thick black clouds of smoke could be seen all the way in New York City. NBC New York's Adam Harding reports.
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