Fire breaks out at Paterson recycling plant

Residents told to stay inside, close windows
January 11, 2008 12:04:11 PM PST
Firefighters are on the scene of a recycling plant fire in Paterson, New Jersey, Friday. Neighboring residents are being told to stay indoors.New Jersey reporter Toni Yates has details.

Officials say they are pretty sure this is not a hazardous situation, and that residents will be fine.

There is a lot of activity still going on. The sheriff's department is still on hand and firefighters are still down at the plant. They had several hot spots to put out after the fire was finally under control. HazMat units are still on hand, because the investigation remains active.

Despite the warning to stay inside, people could be seen walking down the sidewalks near the scene. This includes a mother and child, as well as elderly people walking to a nearby produce store.

Firefighters were called to the scene after a small fire broke out inside the receiving building at the plant. Employees tried to put it out, but actually made the flames worse because what they were using caused a chemical reaction.

"What we had was two trucks that were unloading material," Paterson Deputy Fire Chief Scott MacGilvray said. "One involved a paraffin-based product, which is flammable, which reacted with another unknown chemical. The resultant reaction was attempted to be controlled by company employees with water, which reacted and made the situation worse. The initial smoke that was detected by the...HazMat team did have carcinogenic products in it. That's why we put the protection in place...for the surrounding area."

And because of that smoke, police units were sent around the neighborhood with loudspeakers telling people to keep their windows and doors locked. Again, officials say they are pretty sure there are no dangers for area residents.