Residents were evacuated Friday night after an 11-alarm fire erupted in a chemical plant close to downtown Passaic, New Jersey.
The roof of the Qualco chemical plant collapsed, and the building was expected to be a total loss, according to fire officials.
Hundreds of firefighters from Passaic and surrounding towns were still battling the blaze into Saturday morning. The flames and smoke were visible for about 10 miles.
Qualco, about 13 miles west of Manhattan, makes chlorine for pools and spas. Plastics and pallets were also stored on site, according to officials. The blaze also engulfed nearby Majestic Industries, which manufactures casino furniture.
Officials feared the potential risk of toxic fumes on workers and residents near the fire, so nearby streets were closed and some residents were evacuated in Passaic, which has a population of about 70,000.
Some chlorine tablets had burned by late Friday night, but the fire had not yet reached the main chlorine storage section, said Passaic Mayor Hector Lora. “If the fire were to hit the main chemical plant, it would obviously create issues beyond what our immediate resources would be able to resolve,” he added at a Facebook Live press conference.
Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost Jr. said the situation was being closely monitored.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy advised area residents to keep windows closed, but videos on social media showed people standing in the streets, watching the blaze and taking photos.
“There have been bad fires, but this is the worst that I’ve ever seen,” Lora told NorthJersey.com. “It is an extremely difficult and challenging fire. It is not anywhere near under control,” he said late Friday.
One firefighter was hospitalized after he was hit in the face with debris, Trentacost said. Slips and falls were also reported in the frigid temperatures as the water quickly froze on the ground. No other serious injuries had yet been reported.
Officials won’t be able to search for a cause of the fire until it’s safe to examine the plant.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.