20-hour warehouse fire contained
Firefighters battled strong winds, freezing temperatures and unreliable hydrants at a former munitions plant
The Associated Press
HILLSBOROUGH, N.J. — Firefighters on Friday contained a massive warehouse fire that burned out of control for nearly 20 hours and generated so much smoke that it was detected by weather radar and forced some school closures.
The blaze did not pose an imminent public health threat, officials said. But schools were closed Friday in Hillsborough because of smoke from it.
The fire started Thursday afternoon at Veterans Industrial Park. Plastic pellets were being stored in most of the complex. Those pellets continued to burn even after officials contained the fire from spreading late Friday morning.
The complex once housed old military munitions and is near historic Duke Farms, the estate that belonged to late tobacco heiress Doris Duke.
The winter weather posed challenges to firefighters almost immediately, Hillsborough Fire Marshal Chris Weniger said. Strong winds fueled the blaze Thursday afternoon, and cold temperatures led to problems with freezing water.
Weniger said an outdated sprinkler system and aging fire hydrants on the property led to problems with water pressure for firefighters.
Firefighters also had to be rotated in and out of service. One suffered a minor leg injury.
Mayor Frank DelCore said there were some initial environmental concerns because a property adjacent to the fire was once a federal stockade for mercury, a highly toxic element.
However, the Republican mayor said the federal government had moved the mercury off the site several years ago. Nonetheless, state and federal environmental officials were on the scene to test air quality.