Firefighters, braving the bitter cold to get the flames under control, have contained the Hillsborough inferno to two buildings that are expected to burn for several days.
The fire, which broke out at the complex on U.S. 206 around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, destroyed more than 500,000 square feet of warehouses and produced large plumes of smoke that could be seen for miles.
"I've been in the fire service for 33 years," Hillsborough chief fire marshal Christopher Weniger said. "This is right up there with the biggest fire that we've seen."
The site is an old military base owned by the federal government but leased to a private company whose tenants used the buildings for storage. Firefighters have managed to keep the flames from jumping to two other buildings on site, and that has been a monumental task.
"The wind was blowing," Weniger said. "It was so horribly that we couldn't, we would set up to try and stop it, and it would run right by us."
With mutual aide help, there are 50 to 100 firefighters working rotations round the clock.
In addition to blustery winds and chilling temperatures, fire marshals said inadequate sprinkler systems and outdated water supplies made their job harder as the fire peaked at seven alarms.
Area residents are being asked to avoid the smoke, though there are no major air quality concerns.
"We have the DEP and the EPA on site doing air quality monitoring," Hillsborough Mayor Frank Delcore said. "They'll do that through the weekend."
The cause remains under investigation.
Route 206 was reopened Friday morning after it closed during the evening rush Thursday, but Hillsborough schools were closed.
A look at the fire over the last day:
Smoke from the fire could be seen for miles Friday. From an Eyewitness News viewer:
Up-close, smoke pouring out of the warehouse: