11-alarm fire destroys Passaic chemical plant; nearby residents evacuated
An 11-alarm fire destroyed a chemical plant in the city of Passaic on Friday night.
The first started inside of Qualco Inc. on Canal Street around 9 p.m. The company makes chemicals used to treat pools and spas, according to its website. Bright orange flames and thick black smoke could be seen pouring out of the building.
As of 11:52 p.m., Passaic Mayor Hector Lora said the fire had impacted about 100,000 pounds of finished chlorine pellets - whether by heat, flames or water. The mayor said firefighters had been able to contain the fire away from the main chlorine plant structure, which was the main concern. Lora said that if the fire breached the main chlorine structure, mass evacuations could be needed.
Lora said late Friday that firefighters had made progress battling the fire but that it was far from being under control. He expected firefighters to continue working through the night and into the morning.
Only one security guard was at the plant at the time of the fire and had been accounted for, according to Lora. As of Friday night, there were no reports of fatalities.
Residences near the building were evacuated, and others were urged to keep their windows closed.
Lora said that the evacuees were brought to several nearby locations for shelter, and ShopRite donated food.
Lora says that Passaic Street will be closed from First Street to Columbia Avenue. Traffic is being diverted in the area. Route 21 in the area was also closed for a time.
Fire departments from several nearby towns have responded to assist.
Portions of the building have collapsed due to the flames, and officials say that the building will be a total loss.
"We urge everyone in Passaic to stay safe as firefighters battle a large eight-alarm fire at a chemical plant off of Route 21," Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted earlier in the night. "If you live nearby, keep your windows closed. Praying for the safety of our first responders on the scene."
Residents from towns like Wallington and East Rutherford reported smelling the smoke.
One firefighter was being treated for injuries. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.