Firefighters fight large fire at Passaic . chemical plant

Firefighters were preoccupied with a major fire at a chemical plant in Passaic, New Jersey, early Saturday morning that had broken out the night before, sending towering flames into the sky and clouds of smoke billowing through the region.

There were no major injuries, the city’s mayor said, but the fire was still raging.

“We’re going to fight this fire for days,” the mayor, Hector C. Lora, said in a short phone interview before dawn.

Mr Lora had urged residents Friday evening to stay away from the area so that firefighters from across the region can fight the 11-alarm fire at the factory, which houses a company, Qualco, that produces chlorine for swimming pools. Mr Lora said he also asked residents to close their windows to keep the smoke out.

In an earlier telephone interview on Friday evening, Mr. Lora that about 100,000 pounds of chlorine in the factory had been “affected” by the fire, the heat from the flames or the water from the fire hoses.

As a result, he said, a Reverse 911 call went out to residents of the city and Bergen province, advising them to keep their windows closed. However, he said the part of the factory where most of the chlorine was stored had not been affected.

“We are not in a place where we believe the danger or threat would warrant evacuations,” said Mr Lora, adding that if there were toxic fumes, the firefighters “would have been taken off the site.”

Mr Lora said in the later interview, shortly after 4 a.m., that environmental officials were monitoring air quality in the area and no evacuation orders had been issued. Mr Lora himself was still on site, speaking from a car parked near the chemical plant.

Patrick Trentacost Sr., Passaic’s fire chief, said about 11 p.m. Friday that the burned chlorine “was nothing to worry about at this point.”

“But we’re constantly monitoring it,” he said. “We have companies in the chemical plant and we’re keeping a very close eye on where this fire is going.”

Mr Lora estimated Friday evening that more than 200 firefighters from the region had responded to the blaze, which started just after 8.30pm. He said Saturday morning that some of them had been sent home.

One firefighter had suffered a minor eye injury and there were a few “slips and falls,” he said. But there were no major injuries.

Mr. Lora said Friday that he had spoken with Governor Philip D. Murphy, who dispatched environmental and disaster management officials to the scene.

“We cannot fully inspect until the fire is fully extinguished,” wrote Mr. Lora on Facebook. “It may take some time to determine the cause. The main problem with chlorine fires is wind.”

mr. Murphy said on Twitter that he urged “everyone in Passaic to stay safe,” and he asked those who were by the fire to keep their windows closed.

“Pray for the safety of our first responders on the scene,” wrote Mr. Murphy.

Video posted on social media showed a big ball of flame that erupts along the side of a highway as thick clouds of smoke billowed into the sky. The flames drew crowds of onlookers, some of whom reported hearing explosions and seeing sparks.

New York City officials said: that residents there could see or smell smoke from the fire in Passaic, a city of about 70,000 people, about 10 miles from Manhattan.

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