Bergen County residents told to close windows after fire at chlorine plant

Smoke will be in the air in New York City as well

National Weekend Edition /
Jan.January 15, 2022 11:22 AM

Firefighters battling a 11-alarm fire at a chemical plant in Passaic. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Residents living in and around Passaic, New Jersey are being told to keep their windows closed after a fire at a chemical plant in the city burned overnight.

Firefighters were still battling the blaze early Saturday morning, according to the New York Times, and no major injuries had been reported.

“We’re going to be fighting this fire for days,” Passaic mayor Hector C. Lora, told the newspaper in a pre-dawn interview.

The 11-alarm blaze ignited Friday night at a plant operated by the company Qualco that produces chlorine for swimming pools, according to the report.

Lora told reporters on Friday night that nearly 100,000 pounds of chlorine had been “impacted” by the fire, either by the heat from the flames, or from the water firefighters were using to battle them.

Chlorine fumes can be deadly if breathed in large amounts, according to the Center for Disease Control, noting that while the substance itself is not combustible, it can fan the flames of a fire when combined with other flammable substances. Fire involving chlorine can produce “irritating, corrosive, and/or toxic gases,” according to the CDC, and containers of it can explode when heated.

The CDC also recommends precautions be taken by people living within 1.5 miles downwind of such a fire during the daytime, and 4.6 miles downwind during the night.

Lora told the newspaper a Reverse 911 call went out to residents in the city and in Bergen County, telling them to keep their windows shut. But he added that the part of the plant where most of the chlorine was stored had not been affected by the blaze.

He also told the publication that evacuations would not be necessary, and if there were dangerous fumes to worry about, the firefighters would have been pulled from the site.

Lora added that environmental officials were actively monitoring air quality in the area.

Officials from New York City said that residents there might smell smoke from the fire in Passaic, which is about 10 miles from Manhattan.

[New York Times] — Vince DiMiceli





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