A huge fire broke out at a chemical plant in New Jersey on Friday night, sending huge plumes of black smoke billowing into the air.
The fire at the Passaic chemical plant reached 11 alarms before midnight. Passaic Mayor Hector Lora took to Facebook Live throughout the evening to implore residents to stay away from the area near the fire. Lora also asked those living nearby to close their windows due to the extreme amount of smoke.
Evacuations were not ordered, but were being considered, Lora said. No injuries were reported except for a firefighter who was hit in the face by debris at one point, officials said. A security guard would have been the only person initially on the scene of the vacant building, and that person was accommodated, according to the mayor.
Police blocked streets in the area and officers warned drivers to avoid the area as they feared a potential explosion.
The 200,000 square foot factory is located at 225 Passaic Street near Route 21 and the Passaic River. The factory’s rear structure partially collapsed in the early hours of Saturday morning.
One official said among the businesses housed in the plant is a chlorine manufacturing company for swimming pools and the biggest problem with a chlorine fire is the wind. Strong gusts of wind blew through Passaic as the fire raged through the freezing night, both of which hampered the fight against the flames.
However, Mayor Lora told NBC New York that the fire did not reach the business that housed the chemicals, thanking firefighters for preventing it from happening. A fire chief said the part of the structure where the chlorine was stored “appears to be under control”. If the fire had reached the chemicals, the evacuations could have been in order and the situation would have been much worse, Lora told NBC New York.
Large numbers of firefighters from surrounding towns were called in to help battle the flames, which soared into the night sky and were easily visible from cars traveling on Route 21, which passed just yards from the inferno. Social media video showed the flames shooting even higher than the elevated freeway as cars drove past. The highway has since been closed.
New York City officials said smoke from the fire could be seen or smelled around the city. The Department of Environmental Protection was in Passaic to monitor air quality, according to Lora.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.