'Heroism and bravery': N.J. governor visits fire station after massive chemical plant blaze

“We owe them a debt beyond anything my words can express,” said Passaic Mayor Hector Lora. "We owe them this city"


Noah Cohen
nj.com

PASSAIC, N.J. — Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday visited Passaic to praise firefighters who battled the 11-alarm inferno at a chemical plant in the city last week, containing the flames before the most of the dangerous chemicals ignited.

“The heroism and bravery of each of these folks just takes your breath away,” the governor said during a stop at city’s Eastside Firehouse, according to a pool report.

Hundreds of firefighters from departments around the area, including Bergen, Essex, Passaic and Union counties, joined Passaic crews to contain the sky-high flames in frigid temperatures Friday night at Majestic Industries and the Qualco chemical plant on Passaic Street.
Hundreds of firefighters from departments around the area, including Bergen, Essex, Passaic and Union counties, joined Passaic crews to contain the sky-high flames in frigid temperatures Friday night at Majestic Industries and the Qualco chemical plant on Passaic Street. (Photo/Passaic Fire Department Local 13/213)

Hundreds of firefighters from departments around the area, including Bergen, Essex, Passaic and Union counties, joined Passaic crews to contain the sky-high flames in frigid temperatures Friday night at Majestic Industries and the Qualco chemical plant on Passaic Street. Smoke from the inferno was picked up on weather radar and seen in New York City.

Officials said about 100,000 pounds of chlorine burned in the fire but firefighters contained the flames before the main area of the building, which houses most of the chemicals, were kept.

“We owe them a debt beyond anything my words can express,” said Passaic Mayor Hector Lora. “We owe them this city.”

Officials said 48 engines, 29 ladder companies, rescue trucks and emergency medical units were called in. About 200 firefighters responded to the blaze.

Murphy, the mayor and other officials joined firefighters for pizza and to share thank yous for their efforts.

“They never let go, they never let up,” Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost said.

One firefighter suffered a cut to the face but there were no major injuries, according to officials.

In the early hours of the blaze, Lora shared regular updates via his social media account. Officials, he said, initially considered a possible mass evacuation with the threat of a chemical incident in the city of about 70,500 residents.

“Had it hit the main plant, it would have been, to say the least, a major incident,” Lora said over the weekend. “There would have been evacuations of many, many individuals.”

“This fire could have been a lot worse had it not been contained as it has been,” the governor said at a press briefing Sunday.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency responded to the fire, but there were no signs of chemical dangers from the air.

“Results are below acute risk levels and monitoring continues,” Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said on Twitter.

Investigators were working to determine what caused the fire.

Last year, Passaic crews battled another 11-alarm fire at a recycling plant in the city.

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