A massive fire Monday swept from an industrial complex to a warehouse filled with fuel and on to at least 15 apartment buildings and houses, forcing more than 150 persons to flee, officials said.
One firefighter died of a heart attack while battling the blaze, which generated plumes of thick, black smoke visible 20 miles away.
Loud, booming explosions and short pops rocked the four-block complex, and flames more than 100 feet high shot from the warehouse, where 16,000 gallons of diesel fuel and kerosene were stored, said firefighter Edward Peterson.
More than 150 firefighters fought the blaze, which also caused one minor injury to a firefighter, said Fire Battalion Chief Frank Termyna.
The fire, which was reported at 2:30 p.m., spread to apartment buildings and single-family homes around the complex, which housed about 100 small businesses, Termyna said. It continued to burn out of control more than eight hours later.
“These (the nearby buildings) are going to go,” Peterson said. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
The firefighters’ efforts were temporarily hampered by low water pressure, and water was pumped from the nearby Passaic River.
“This very well could be the worst fire in the city’s history,” said Fire Chief Kenneth Petersen.
Firefighters evacuated residents within several blocks of the blaze, going from building to building, kicking in doors and ordering people to leave immediately. They smashed windows of parked cars to roll them away from the scene.