UPDATE: Authorities on Saturday said they'd finally gotten a massive industrial complex fire in Passaic under control nearly a dozen hours after it broke out.
More than 200 firefighters fought the 11-alarm blaze, which forced evacuations of nearby homes, sent potentially dangerous smoke into the air and prompted officials to urge residents to keep their windows closed.
The smoke reportedly was spotted on weather radar.
Passaic Mayor Hector Carlos Lora called the fire “the worst that I’ve ever seen.”
Fortunately, he said, firefighters were able to keep the flames from releasing toxic fumes at a chemical plant on the property along the Passaic River.
The lone occupant – a security guard who called police – got out safely, authorities said.
More than a dozen firefighters from Passaic, Essex and Bergen counties were injured in trips and falls. One was treated at a local hospital and released after falling debris hit him in the head.
There was also a false report that a fire truck from Wayne had been incinerated.
At least 90% of the Majestic Industries building had collapsed in the single-digit overnight temperatures, which froze most of the millions of gallons of water poured on the fire.
The blaze broke out around 8:15 p.m. Friday in Majestic’s Passaic Street warehouse, where it makes gaming and hospitality furniture for casinos and bingo halls.
Although the blaze spread to another building used by Qualco Inc., firefighters kept it from igniting more than 50 tons of chlorine pellets for pools and spas, Lora said.
Potentially dangerous consequences of the chemical fumes prompted the mayor to implore residents to keep their windows closed. Nearby Route 21 was shut down. Residents in New York City also were warned they might see or smell the smoke.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection tested the air quality and found it safe, Lora noted, as officials’ worst fears about a toxic chemical release weren’t realized.
“As a direct result of the remarkable response of firefighters and emergency responders, they were able to contain the fire and it did not reach the main chemical plant," the mayor said.
Firefighters continued to rotate in and out throughout the day Saturday, dousing flame pockets while maintaining four-alarm status.
The cause wasn’t immediately determined.
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