Massive fire contained at southern NJ warehouse

Viewer photo provided by Sharene Salameh from Philadelphia

September 2, 2013 6:37:25 PM PDT
A massive fire that destroyed a southern New Jersey food warehouse has finally been contained, more than a day after it broke out.

But fire officials say the 11-alarm blaze at the Dietz and Watson distribution plant in Delanco will likely continue to smolder for the next few days.

"It's just an intense fire," Delanco Fire Chief Ron Holt said. "It's going to take some time."

Dozens of firefighters battled the blaze, which broke out around 1:30 p.m. Sunday and burned throughout the night before it was finally contained late Monday afternoon. They were greatly hampered by water supply issues and the threat of electrocution due to thousands of solar panels on the building's roof, Authorities said three firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze, but no civilian injuries were reported. The only people on the campus at the time the fire started were two security guards who manned a station outside the building.

Louis Eni, Dietz and Watson's chief executive officer, told reporters at the scene that the 266,000-square-foot distribution center is a total loss and will likely have to be demolished. But he said the company would take care of its employees and customers.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Officials say it appears that the fire started in the center of the building and quickly escalated, ripping through the roof of the warehouse.

Air quality testing determined that the smoke was nontoxic, but residents who live nearby were being told to stay indoors and keep their windows closed. They also were urged to cut back on water use.