ELIZABETH, NJ (CBSNewYork) — Firefighters are still battling the billowing smoke that continues to pour out from a warehouse fire in Elizabeth.
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Fire officials say they may not be able to completely extinguish the blaze until this weekend or possibly into next week.
Heavy equipment was brought in to knock large holes in the warehouse walls so firefighters could get more water to the fire, which is centered deep inside a maze of walls and tunnels in the massive Burry Biscuits warehouse on Newark Avenue.
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“When these buildings are this large, it is very difficult for fire streams to get inside. They reach about a hundred feet and that’s about it. So when you have an 800 to 1,000 foot building, we have to push men inside,” Deputy Fire Chief Lathey Wirkus told CBS 2’s Mark Morgan.
Initially, over 250 firefighters from about 3 dozen companies brought the fire under control. However, the flames are still being fed by junked cars, fuel, and plastics.
Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage still suspects arson.
“Clearly when you look at the intensity of the heat, the location of this fire and where it started, it’s not an accident,” Bollwage said.READ MORE: FDA Grants Pfizer Emergency Use For COVID-19 Vaccine For Children Ages 12 To 15
Officials say the fire likely began with a car fire inside a body shop and worsened as leaking fuel spread, igniting other flammable materials throughout the building.
Hazardous materials teams are on scene and although they insist air readings are within safety limits, residents have been advised to take precautions.
“Any smoke condition is going to aggravate your lungs,” Wirkus told CBS 2’s Jay Dow. “You shouldn’t stand in it, but the particulate matters that were reading for this particular area right now are within acceptable limits.”
For days, area residents have found themselves choking on the thick, foul-smelling smoke.
“With my asthma, especially, and the smoke’s drifting right towards our house. I don’t know if they’re trying to contain it or what, it’s just not going away-it’s been 3 days now. It’s ridiculous,” resident Deanne Rieger said.
Maria Xerfan operates a hair salon across the street. The constant smoke has kept many of her customers away.
“They couldn’t get nobody in here. It effected me, real bad, because I have a lot of cancellations because people don’t want to come because of the smoke,” Xerfan said.
Roads around the area of the warehouse have been closed.MORE NEWS: Homeless Services Head Steven Banks Defends NYC's Process Of Getting Vulnerable People Off The Streets
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