Firefighters Battle Separate Blazes at Amusement Park, Recycling Plant

February 1, 2021

OCEAN CITY, N.J. (AP) — Fire severely damaged a building at an amusement park in New Jersey and sent dramatic smoke billowing across the skyline Saturday, but no injuries were reported. In the meantime, firefighters battled a blaze at a recycling plant that may burn for days.

The blaze at Playland’s Castaway Cove in Ocean City, in southern New Jersey, began at 7:40 a.m. Saturday in the building that houses the park’s arcade, offices, and two fast-food restaurants, officials said.

The building, which was left with “extensive damage,” was empty at the time and no fire-related injuries were reported, spokesperson Doug Bergen said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, Bergen said.

“A west wind fueled the fire but likely spared neighboring buildings,” Bergen said in a news release. The boardwalk didn’t appear damaged, but access to the surrounding area is being blocked for now, he said.

Leaders of Playland Castaway Cove vowed to rebuild and said it would be open “sooner rather than later.”

“We have a secondary entrance that will now be our main entrance for the foreseeable future,” the company said in a post on Facebook. “… For now, hug your loved ones, pray for the first responders and know that we will be back in the spring of 2021!”

It wasn’t the only dramatic fire in New Jersey on Saturday. At the other end of the state, officials said a huge blaze at a recycling plant in Passaic might burn for days. Two firefighters were injured, and the cause was also under investigation

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries, but all 70 employees at the Atlantic Coast Fibers plant are accounted for, Passaic Mayor Hector Lora said.

The blaze broke out around midnight, shooting flames into the dark as more than two dozen fire departments responded. There were at least two explosions, one involving a truck with gas tanks on it, Lora said.

Smoke billowed into the sky even after sunup, and Lora said firefighters planned to tap the Passaic River to keep dousing an inferno that could take days to extinguish.

“When you consider a recycling plant, everything inside is conducive for continuing to burn,” he told WABC-TV, calling the building “a complete loss.”

The cause is under investigation, Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost said, but he doesn’t consider it suspicious. Fires are not uncommon in recycling plants, he said.

“A lot of oils get on the recycling, the cardboard that they pick up on the streets in the sanitation trucks. So, batteries, acids can start a fire. A lot of factors,” Trentacost told WLNY-TV.

The flames erupted on a “punch-you-in-the-face cold” night, as the mayor put it, with temperatures in the teens. One firefighter was taken to a hospital with exhaustion, and another after falling on surfaces that were “like an ice-skating rink,” he said.

Firefighters did “a remarkable job, nonstop, just hitting the fire at every direction in order to contain it in that structure,” Lora said. There had been concern about the flames spreading, particularly to a former chemical factory that is now a woodworking firm.

“We’re going to be here for a few days dealing with this,” he said, also citing the impact on hundreds of employees at the plant and in neighboring structures.

Atlantic Coast Fibers processes cardboard, paper, plastic containers and other materials for recycling, according to its website. The family-run company dates back over 80 years.

The fire came two years to the day after a blaze at the Marcal paper plant in nearby Elmwood Park destroyed 30 of 36 buildings, as well as a familiar red sign visible from Interstate 80. About 500 people lost their jobs. The cause was never determined, but prosecutors said arson wasn’t suspected.

About the photo: Firefighters battle a blaze in an industrial area on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, in Passaic, NJ. Officials say the blaze broke out around midnight at the Atlantic Coast Fibers plant and sent flames shooting into the dark as 20 fire departments converged to fight it. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen).

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