Electric fire deemed cause of blaze at NJ plant

AP News
Posted: May 25, 2011 11:24 PM
Electric fire deemed cause of blaze at NJ plant

A blaze that erupted at a large chemical processing facility in northern New Jersey on Wednesday night appears to have been an electrical fire and caused no injuries, authorities said.

The fire at the International Matex Tank Terminal in Bayonne burned for about three hours before it was extinguished, said Lt. Anthony Serafino, a police spokesman. The amount of damage caused wasn't immediately clear.

The fire apparently started in a cogenerating station that possibly contained an electrical transformer, Bayonne Public Safety Director Jason O'Donnell told the Jersey Journal.

Firefighters contained the blaze to a small area of the 520-acre facility, which has hundreds of tanks handling petroleum and specialty chemicals. O'Donnell told nearby residents there was "no need for alarm."

A man who answered the phone at the plant declined to comment on the blaze.

The fire began shortly before 7:30 p.m. and produced heavy smoke visible over a wide area of northern New Jersey and in Manhattan, 8 miles away.

Nearby residents said they heard a loud explosion, then saw a huge cloud of black smoke that enveloped their homes.

"The smoke was pretty extreme for a while, and it was over the whole town," said 26-year-old Candice Pepe, who lives about three blocks from the plant. "Everything was black."

O'Donnell couldn't confirm whether there was an explosion before the fire started.

The nearby Bayonne Bridge, which connects Bayonne and New York City's Staten Island, was closed for about an hour after the fire started.

Investigators remained at the scene late Wednesday night. No further details were expected until Thursday morning.