Seven-alarm blaze raging in Elmwood Park NJ

ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. – A seven-alarm fire raged at Marcal Paper Mills on Wednesday evening, the second time in a month that a building at the factory along the bank of the Passaic River caught fire. 

The fire began around 5 p.m. in the warehouse, which has large paper rolls and is used to make toilet paper, paper towels and tissues, Police Chief and Borough Administrator Michael Foligno said. 

No injuries have been reported but the frigid temperatures are a concern for first responders, Foligno said, adding that had it not been so cold and windy the fire would have been knocked down already. He said the “whipping” wind feeds the flames and causes them to spread rapidly. 

“It’s freezing,” Foligno said. “Firefighters are dealing with water on their faces and on their hands, it’s spraying all over you. Regardless of your equipment, it impacts you and slows you down.”

Foligno said he is not yet sure to what extent the 425,000-square-foot warehouse, which acts as a distribution center for Marcal paper products, is damaged. 

Embers from the blaze are flying through the air toward homes and businesses, Foligno said. The department will monitor the situation and evacuate homes and businesses if needed, he said. 

“It’s not our first fire here, it’s frequent, it’s a paper mill so it happens a lot,” Foligno said, adding that Marcal has its own fire brigade and is “pretty good about controlling fires.” 

It appeared that, so far, the building topped with the iconic Marcal sign was not affected by the fire. The warehouse is on the opposite side of Market Street from the historic main building. 

Firefighters battling the blaze also had to combat temperatures that plummeted at least 10 degrees as the polar vortex hit the region. The windchill made it feel like minus-10 degrees in Elmwood Park at 7:30 p.m.

 

Marcal is owned by Soundview Paper Company.

The Marcal building is a familiar site off Route 80. It also has a history of fire-related incidents in recent years. This month alone, there have been two fires reported at the Elmwood Park site.

On Jan. 9, the roof of Marcal Paper Mills caught fire. Officials took about two hours to extinguish the blaze, which may have been sparked by a crane removing an extension cord inside the building, officials have said. No injuries were reported.

In February 2017, firefighters battled another blaze at the property for 2.5 hours. Authorities at the time said more than 100 firefighters from 20 towns helped quench the flames.

The year prior, in April 2016, there was a three-alarm blaze at the Marcal paper plant, which officials at the time said may have been caused by extreme spring weather. Fire officials said they believed the building’s main smokestack may have been struck by lightning, sending bricks and debris onto the roof and setting it on fire. That blaze, too, took two hours to extinguish.

Staff writers Melanie Anzidei, Ricardo Kaulessar, Keldy Ortiz, Owen Proctor, Svetlana Shkolnikova, Debbie Waldeyer and Anthony Zurita contributed to this article.

 

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