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

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.

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