Iconic Marcal sign falls during icy factory fire
ELMWOOD PARK — Fire crews remained all night at a fire at the Marcal Paper factory. A cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
More than 100 firefighters from around the area were called late Wednesday afternoon to the Marcal Paper Mills in Elmwood Park. They battled the blaze for several hours amid frigid temperatures but were unable to save the structure, which was allowed to burn itself out.
The fire was reported about 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Fire Chief Bill Shadwell said Thursday morning that the fire was brought under control about 2 a.m. The chief hopes that demolition crews will get to work to work on Thursday in order to eliminate the threat of hotspots in the debris from flaring up.
The neon "Marcal" sign that has been atop the building since the 1940s collapsed late Wednesday night when the roof caved in. Shadwell said about 90 percent of the building was destroyed.
Rob Baron, president and CEO of Soundview Paper Company, said none of the roughly 200 people who work at the mill were working at the time of the fire.
Shadwell said lots of “hazardous icing conditions” remain from the hydrants and water used to put out the flames. Public works crews have had problems getting rid of it because of the cold.
He expected exits off Route 80 to remain closed at least through Thursday.
Gov. Phil Murphy was scheduled to visit the site on Thursday afternoon.
The biggest challenge for the firefighters was the bitter, 5-degree temperatures and the wind that makes it feel even colder.
Shadwell said the fire would have been knocked down in a couple of hours with minimal damage under normal circumstances.
Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said sustained winds were measured at 28 mph at Teterboro, the nearest recording station to Elmwood Park.
Edwin Donnelly, New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association president, said there is no special equipment used during a fire in cold conditions.
"Our job is tough enough on a sunny day. You couple in the elements of the weather and the bitter cold, we had big-time problems with the water. We were bringing in water from different grids from different counties and different towns and had big-time freezing problems," Donnelly told New Jersey 101.5.
He said the equipment used and worn is the same whether it's 100 degrees or minus-10 degrees.
More manpower is needed during cold weather fires because firefighters can't work for long periods of time. They are monitored to make sure they stay healthy while on duty.
No firefighters have been reported injured.
The fire is the second reported this month at the site. Another large fire occurred there in 2017.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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