Fire erupts near New Jersey chemical plant; residents told to stay away

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PASSAIC, N.J. —
A fire near a New Jersey chemical plant with flames and smoke visible for miles in the night sky spread to multiple buildings in the complex Friday, threatening to reach the plant’s chemical storage area, authorities said.

Passaic Mayor Hector Lora told residents in a video posted on Facebook to stay away from the area and keep their windows closed.

Lora said firefighters were still assessing the situation. There were no initial reports of loss of life, he said.

Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost said the building was vacant when the fire broke out.

“A portion of the building did have chlorine in it and that seems to be under control at this time,” he said just after midnight. “We’ll be monitoring that also throughout the night but certainly we’re far from having control of the fire.”

The fire chief also said much of the building where the fire originated has collapsed within itself. Water from the nearby river was being used to supplement the supply for firefighters.

One firefighter was taken to a hospital after getting hit in the face with debris, but was doing well, Trentacost said. Many other firefighters had slipped and fell while battling the flames as water used to tamp down the fire turned to ice. The chief estimated temperatures were in the teens.

New York City Emergency Management sent a notification Friday night saying residents might see or smell smoke from the fire.

The Qualco Inc. plant is about 13 miles (21 kilometers) west of Manhattan. It produces chemicals used to treat pools and spas, according to its website. It is next to Majestic Industries, a designer and manufacturer of gaming and hospitality furniture, Lora said.

It was unclear how the fire started.

The Department of Environmental Protection was on scene assessing air quality, Lora said. As of 3:30 a.m., the air quality levels were deemed acceptable, and evacuations were not needed, he said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted about the fire, echoing calls for people who live near it to keep their windows closed.

“We urge everyone in Passaic to stay safe as firefighters battle a large eight-alarm fire at a chemical plant off of Route 21,” Murphy wrote. “Praying for the safety of our first responders on the scene.”

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