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Massive 7-alarm fire rips through Marcal paper plant in New Jersey

"The wind is not helping and the cold — it’s causing the fire to spread rapidly," the city's police chief said.
Image: Marcal Paper Mills Fire
Firefighters struggle to put out a fire at Marcal Paper Mills in Elmwood Park, New Jersey on January 30, 2019.NBC

A massive fire tore through a paper factory in New Jersey on Wednesday evening amid freezing temperatures that complicated efforts to fight the blaze, which swelled to seven alarms, officials said.

Emergency responders received 911 calls just after 5 p.m. about a fire at the Marcal Paper Mills in Elmwood Park. Two hours later, it was designated a seven-alarm fire and firefighters had to be pulled from the building as the roof collapsed, Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno.

"The wind is not helping and the cold — it’s causing the fire to spread rapidly," Foligno said. "We have at least 10 other towns here with their fire departments helping us fight the fire."

No injuries have been reported as of Wednesday night. Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno said Thursday that 90 percent of the warehouse’s footprint was damaged by the blaze.

Authorities are concerned that some businesses and homes east of the plant may be at risk but had not evacuated anyone as of Wednesday night.

Rob Baron, president and CEO of Soundview Paper Company, which owns the mill, said in a statement that none of the nearly 200 employees working at the mill at the time of the fire were injured, and he said "first responders from multiple surrounding communities exhibited extraordinary bravery, commitment and skill — risking their lives fighting this terrible blaze in frigid conditions."

"The full extent of the damage to our facility is not yet known, but we know the impact will be incalculable to the lives of our dedicated workers and our business as a whole," he added.

Marcal Paper manufactures products from recycled paper, such as paper towel rolls, items that Foligno said are now fully engulfed in the flames.

New Jersey Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, whose district includes Elmwood Park, said in a statement that the Marcal plant has been a fixture in the Garden State.

"Like many in the 35th district, I have passed that Marcal plant all of my life — it is a staple in our community. Even as a child, when I didn’t know what the building was, I always knew I was close to home when I saw the illuminated MARCAL sign from Route 80," Wimberly said.

"To see it in such devastating flames is heartbreaking,” he said. "Aiding the Marcal workers and their families will definitely require a comprehensive, community effort, and I will do whatever I can to assist legislatively and personally to offer my assistance."

Marcal says on its website it has been producing paper products from recycled materials for more than five decades.

Marcal is categorized as a medium-large business by NetWise Company Profiles, meaning it employs between 501 to 1,000 people.

The Marcal warehouse previously caught fire in 2017, and it took more than 100 firefighters from 15 towns to help contain it, according to