Massive fire breaks out at chemical plant in New Jersey

PASSAIC, N.J. — Authorities responded Friday night to a 11-alarm fire at a building housing a chemical plant and a furniture manufacturer in New Jersey.

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The blaze sent huge plumes of smoke into the air and prompted officials to warn residents to keep their windows closed as hundreds of firefighters battled the flames.

Update 11 p.m. EST Jan. 14: Mayor Hector Lora said the fire has been upgraded from an eight-alarm to an 11-alarm blaze as firefighters from several jurisdictions continue working to contain it.

Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost said first responders found “heavy, heavy smoke” and the entire roof and upper floor of the Qualco Inc. building on fire Friday evening. The company manufacturers chemicals for swimming pools, though Trentacost noted that the flames had not reached the main chemical plant as of late Friday.

“We have some minor involvement, some packing material, some minor loads of chlorine (but) nothing to be concerned about at this time,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to contain it ... but by no means are we under control. ... We’re doing the best we can.”

Lora said the building involved in the blaze, which houses Qualco and Majestic Industries, were “relatively empty” at the time the fire sparked. One firefighter has been transported to a hospital with injuries that the mayor described as not serious.

“This is probably one of the worst fires that I have seen in such a long time,” Lora said.

Original report: Gov. Phil Murphy urged people in Passaic to stay safe as firefighters battled an eight-alarm fire at a chemical plant on Passaic Street.

“If you live nearby, keep your windows closed,” he said in a Twitter post. “Praying for the safety of our first responders on the scene.”

Video obtained by WCBS-TV showed the massive fire that sparked around 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Passaic Mayor Hector Lora said Friday night that firefighters were “trying to get access from every fire hydrant” to battle flames at the Qualco Inc. warehouse and nearby Majestic Industries. Qualco manufactures swimming pool chemicals, according to its website.

“As of right now, the fire has not impacted directly the chemicals,” Lora said in a video posted on Facebook. “But … you can see how some of the sparks are actually coming out, and individuals are concerned because of this -- whether sparks or fire can impact their home.”

#Passaic #fire keep all of our firefighters, police, emergency responders, and all involved in your prayers.

Posted by Passaic City Mayor Hector C. Lora on Friday, January 14, 2022

He said residents of nearby buildings were not being evacuated and no injuries had immediately been reported.

“We are requiring all residents – close your windows,” he said. “Stay away from the immediate area.”

The mayor called the blaze “an extremely difficult fire” and said authorities were doing all they could to contain it.

“The cause is still under investigation. We don’t have that,” he said. “There is an expectation that we are going to lose the entire structure. The firefighters will continue to fight this, but … right now our priority is life, is the life of those who are battling the fire, obviously the life of those that were around the area and inside.”

It was not immediately clear whether anyone was inside when the fire started.