Massive fire engulfing large industrial building in Elizabeth, NJ will burn for days

Janice Yu Image
Saturday, January 6, 2024
Massive fire engulfing large industrial building in Elizabeth, NJ will burn for days
Crystal Cranmore has the latest developments.

ELIZABETH, New Jersey (WABC) -- A massive fire consuming a large industrial complex in Elizabeth, New Jersey is expected to burn for days.

The fire broke out on Trumbull Street, in the Elizabethport section, just after 5:30 a.m. Friday. The blaze sent dramatic flames into the air just south of Newark Airport, with smoke visible for more than 30 miles.

"Four or five o'clock, I smelled something. I thought I might have left something on stove. I said no, it's not that," said Lonnie Dillworth, an eyewitness.

Flames could be seen raging through the large industrial buildings. The fire started in building F6 and spread to several buildings in the complex. More than 100 firefighters responded to the scene.

"It's actually undetermined exactly what was transpiring prior to the initial call," Elizabeth Fire Chief Salvatore Barraco said. "But the initial call came through as someone, a passerby, seeing flames. They called it immediately in and we responded immediately and sounded additional alarms right from the outset."

The massive fire is expected to burn for days, and the bitterly cold temperatures and icy conditions could hamper the efforts to put it out.

Shannon Sohn is live in NewsCopter 7 over the scene with the latest details.

"I happened to look out my bedroom and I saw all this smoke," Dillworth said.

Firefighters were initially set back by numerous dead fire hydrants at the complex.

One sidewall and two roofs collapsed by Friday afternoon. Firefighters set up a collapse zone as they positioned mutual aid firetrucks around the burning buildings.

The FDNY also sent a fireboat to help battle the blaze from the water.

Now known as Elizabeth Industrial Park, the complex houses multiple businesses on the south end of Newark Airport.

"There are many warehouses, small warehouses in the back. The exact number (we) don't know," Bollwage said.

Fortunately, no one was in the buildings, so there were no serious injuries, according to the mayor.

The buildings on fire are behind a two-block-long street-side structure that dates back to 1900 and once housed the Singer Sewing Machine Co.

"It's an iconic building. It's a signature staple where we are," witness Lizzet Montalvo said. "To know where you are in Elizabeth, that's the building we described."

Now, it appears toys may have been manufactured in that building.

Retired Jersey City Fire Chief Steven McGill said on Eyewitness News Mornings @ 10 that the building is made up of heavy timber with 12-by-12 beams and columns. "Once that stuff starts burning the fire load is intense and it takes a lot of water to put it out."

Steven McGill sits down with the Mornings @ 10 team.

If it is toys burning, "Plastics are toxic and you don't want to breathe that in, firefighters will be on air, even if they are outside," McGill said.

This fire will likely burn for days, McGill predicted. He said that the priority now is protecting neighboring buildings and keeping the fire from spreading.

Steven McGill sits down with the Mornings @ 10 team.

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said he asked the governor to send the DEP for air monitoring. He said they are also working with the water company on notifying residents in the neighborhood about possible water issues due to the amount being used to put the blaze out.

Due to the fire, School No. 13 was on a delayed opening and School No. 52 was closed for Friday.

There is no word yet on what caused the fire.


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