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Mayor: Raging Elizabeth, N.J. Warehouse Fire May Have Been Intentionally Set

Firefighters Say They May Not Get The 7-Alarm Blaze Out Until Saturday

ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A warehouse fire, expected to burn for days, may be the work of an arsonist, police said Thursday night.

Still burning and still smoking up the skies over Elizabeth is a stubborn blaze that just won’t die. Area residents spent the better part of Thursday walking around with their faces covered, CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reports.

PHOTOS: Elizabeth Warehouse Fire

Investigators said Thursday night they believe this 7-alarm blaze was intentionally set, and that firefighters won’t be able to put it out, perhaps until Saturday.

“It possibly could take that long, depending on how far the fire travels, and the path it travels,” Elizabeth Deputy Fire Chief Lathey Wirkus said.

The smoky air is a big issue for neighbors like the Morales family, who were shut in their apartment with the windows closed and facemasks at the ready, just as the mayor asked. The air is that thick.

“The smoke inside, no good. My father, my mother, asthma,” Jorge Morales said.

The old Burry Biscuit factory has been burning since Wednesday afternoon. It started with a car fire on a lower floor and quickly spread throughout a facility that now houses several businesses, with oil, tires and other chemicals on site.

1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck Hears From Elizabeth’s Mayor

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage told 1010 WINS on Thursday that he is extremely concerned about the fire and what might have started it.

“To have a fire start in a car and then in the basement, where the fire was raging for a couple of hours before we were even notified, causes it extremely concern that — plus there’s other things going on in there that the state police are aware of that we were told that I can’t go in to…which leads me to believe that this fire was set intentionally,” Mayor Chris Bollwage said.

WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reports

Firefighters initially made an interior attack, but were pulled out, due to smoke and heat.

“If we don’t get a collapse of the building to expose more of the fire, this could be a really prolonged operation that lasts a couple of days,” Elizabeth Fire Chief Tom McNamara said.

It’s looking like it will be just that.

“To put something like this on these men, especially when they’re trying their hardest, that’s horrible,” one resident said.

The good news is the fire is not overly toxic, according to fire officials. They said air quality monitors, which have been running continuously, are getting acceptable readings, thanks to a steady wind.

“The wind columns are carrying it around. It’s acceptable. Last night, it was extremely dangerous,” Deputy Chief Wirkus said.

Roselle Hicks said she worked in the building for 45 years.

“That last basement, we were never allowed to go down there,” she said. “There’s three basements: basement, sub basement and one underneath the sub basement.”

Roads around the area have been closed.

Please leave a comment below…

  • The Durant/Waverly Terminal/Burry/Interbake Historical Society

    The building was built by John Willys between 1913 and 1920. He went bankrupt and never built a car there. He built his cars in buildings 1A, 1B, and 1C (where the Stop and Shop is now) while the existing building was under construction. William Durant bought the building at auction (he outbid Chrysler) in 1921 and built his cars there until 1933. George Burry moved into the building from Chicage in 1938. The building has produced cookies and crackers from that time until 2006 when Interbake Foods moved out. There aren’t three sub basments under building 4 where the fire is. The fire is in the basement area and there is only one sub basement beneath that, on the eastern side of the building. It connects building 4 to the power house and was used in the car building days to bring heat from the coal fired furnaces to the wood drying kiln in the basement area of building 4 where the fire is now. Those old cars had a lot of wooden parts, including the wheels.


    OYe VEy, the insurance will pay…. oy vee. Who wants to bet that this is just another J…Hassid land lord who has helped ruin the american manufacturing industry,, by banking global, … cashing in on the system? EH?

    corsine aside if that’s plausable eh/


      CAlled HAVE A Nagulaiia baybay

  • Peter Crisitello

    What most of you call the former old Burry Biscuit factory was actually originally built back in the late 1920’s as the main production facility for Durant Motors. Another piece of automotive history literally bites the dust.

  • Jim Masterson

    The mayor sounds as though he is moron. Is he a graduate of the city of Elizabeth public school system? Who would vote for an idiot such as this? Puzzling to say the least, but, wait, wasn’t said mayor a member of the bank that was seized by the Federales a few years back, aong with that other life-long teat sucking from the public trough, Lesniak. Ahh what would one expect.

    • jasmine morales

      excuese me am from elizabeth public schools and most of the elizabeth students are smart so please dont talk about elizabeth like that!!!

  • Robyn

    I think either Peter or Someone in Peter’s family works for Stockton. Tommy is correct, it is not a question of where the fire is at this point. It is how to get to where it is and make sure no further injury of damage is done around the building. Fire is far more complex than you are thinking. And I am sure Stockton is not cheap either, and will provide no help at this matter. If you look into fire behavior you will see that this is a battle that is going to take time. Fire does not tame as easily as anyone would like. And with many sub basements form an underground oven topped with a building insulator.

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  • Nancy Warman

    I saw huge plumes of smoke from rt 22 east in Springfield NJ. Also had a huge choking attack today and eyes are burning in Springfield. Am I the only one?

  • Tommy

    Peter is clearly not a firefighter… The entire building is on fire and and it is in the sub basement. All fire depts carry TICs (Thermal imaging cameras) and could easily use a tower to get above the fire but it would be a waste of time. The seat has been expanding beyond its original location since the fire stared and the original fuel has long burned out. At this point too much is burning to make finding the original source a priority.

  • Peter Bennett

    City of Elizabeth should contact Greg Stockton of
    (800) 248-7226
    He can dispatch a plane to conduct infrared to find the heat source.
    It will save time money

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