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Catastrophe averted as massive fire near a New Jersey chemical plant is contained

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A thick plume of smoke rises over a burning building which is seen through the windshield of a vehicle, in Passaic, New Jersey, U.S., January 14, 2022 in this screen grab obtained from a video on social media.
Maria Alberto via Reuters

A dramatic fire near a chemical plant burned through the night and into Saturday morning in northern New Jersey, its smoke so heavy that it was detected on weather radar and was seen and smelled in nearby New York City.

The fire at Majestic Industries and the Qualco chemical plant in Passaic was in buildings housing plastics, pallets and chlorine, officials said, but catastrophe was averted. No serious injuries were reported, and no evacuation orders were issued.

Crews battled pockets of the blaze into the morning, Passaic Mayor Hector Lora said, but it was contained.

The fire was prevented from reaching the main chemical plant, which could have endangered the densely populated New York City suburbs of New Jersey, Lora said.

Nearby residents were advised to close their windows but were not required to evacuate, with officials saying air quality remained acceptable and would be monitored.

Some residents fled nonetheless.

“It’s worrying. You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Joel Heredia told WCBS-TV.

Frigid weather froze water from hydrants and hoses, hampering boats trying to draw water from the Passaic River and causing firefighters to slip and fall, Lora said. One firefighter went to the hospital with an eye injury, he said.

Security guard Justin Johnson told WCBS-TV he was working alone, checking water pressure, when he noticed smoke coming from a smokestack-like tower. He wasn’t sure what to make of it but called the fire department as alarms went off.

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