Seven-alarm fire at New Jersey paper plant, US
A fire began burning around 17h00 on 30 January 2019, in a 45 000-square-foot warehouse building, which acts as a distribution centre for Marcal paper products. Soon, it appeared as an out-of-control ball of fire engulfing the entire site, spewing embers toward nearby homes, businesses and the municipal building. The entire structure was consumed by flames on Wednesday night despite hours of toil in the bitter cold by fire fighters trying to control the blaze that began in a nearby warehouse. The iconic Marcal sign that sat perched atop the Marcal Paper Mills building since the 1940s has fallen. Drivers on Route 80 said they could feel the intense heat emanating from the scene from inside their cars on the highway.
Damage at the main Marcal building and the warehouse, which houses large paper rolls used to make toilet paper, paper towels and tissues, is "extensive to say the least," Police Chief and Borough Administrator Michael Foligno said.
No injuries have been reported but the frigid temperatures are a concern for first responders, Foligno said, adding that had it not been so cold and windy the fire would have been knocked down already. He said the "whipping" wind feeds the flames and causes them to spread rapidly. “It’s freezing," Foligno said. "Fire fighters are dealing with water on their faces and on their hands, it’s spraying all over you. Regardless of your equipment, it impacts you and slows you down.”
Rob Baron, president and chief executive officer of Soundview Paper Company, which owns the property, issued a statement. "The full extent of the damage to our facility is not yet known but we know the impact will be incalculable to the lives of our dedicated workers and our business as a whole," he said. Baron added that the company is grateful that none of its nearly 200 employees who work at the mill were injured.
The fire seemed to be controlling itself by burning out by around 22h00, Foligno said, adding that fire fighters continued to spray areas that could be dangerous, like gas mains. A small house nearby caught fire from the embers but crews watching for the cinders quickly extinguished it. “It’s not our first fire here; it’s frequent. It's a paper mill, so it happens a lot," Foligno said, adding that Marcal has its own fire brigade and is "pretty good about controlling fires."
Governor Phil Murphy pledged his support on Wednesday night and is expected to visit the site within the next day or two. Mayor Frank Caramagna said the roof of the warehouse building had collapsed by 18h30. He said he was told that the building was evacuated when the fire started and that there are no reported injuries. "It looks very bad, the building will probably be completely destroyed," the mayor said of the warehouse.
As darkness fell, along with the temperature, thick smoke engulfed the building, billowing out into the surrounding area. Fire fighters battling the blaze also had to combat temperatures that plummeted as the polar vortex hit the region. The wind chill made it feel like minus-10 degrees in Elmwood Park at 19h30.
Joe Mirrer, an 18-year Marcal employee, was walking back from his car to the building where he works, next to the one on fire. He said the building ablaze known as "2PM" contained paper rolls and propane tanks that helped fuel the fire. He said was worried about the fire spreading further. "There are other small propane tanks across the area that could explode," Mirrer said. "That was the explosions people heard."
Angela Fava, a receptionist working in a dentist’s office less than a block away, said she and her colleagues started seeing smoke coming from the plant around 17h00. “First it was smoke, then the flames was immediately following. It went up pretty quick,” Fava said. “We started getting concerned about the flames and smoke getting very high.”
The Marcal building is a familiar site off Route 80. It also has a history of fire-related incidents in recent years. This month alone, there have been two fires reported at the Elmwood Park site. In February 2017, fire fighters battled a blaze at the property for 2½ hours. Authorities at the time said more than 100 fire fighters from 20 towns helped quench the flames.
The year before, in April 2016, there was a three-alarm blaze at the Marcal paper plant. Fire officials said they believed the building’s main smokestack may have been struck by lightning, sending bricks and debris onto the roof and setting it on fire. That blaze, too, took two hours to extinguish.
Source: USA Today