1 person found dead after massive fire at Elizabeth waste management facility

Firefighters battle blaze at N.J. waste facility for hours


One person remained unaccounted for over nine hours the fire began burning.

The Elizabeth Fire Department said around 10:30 p.m. that they predict the fire will last throughout the night, but it was currently under control.

Thick black smoke billowed into the sky, spreading to nearby homes and Newark Airport as planes were in the air.

Crews were still on the scene around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reports, some nine hours after it started, firefighters continued to pour water on the flames that tore through the waste management commercial building in Elizabeth.

Witnesses say the fireball seemed to come out of nowhere and suddenly was engulfing the structure.

“It was crazy. It was like pops, a lot of pops, there was a big trailer on fire,” witness Crystal Gonzalez said.

Firefighters told CBS2 the flames and thick black smoke were so intense that they would often have to back off, even if they were wearing an oxygen mask.

People who work across the street could feel the smoke in their eyes and throat.

“Burning, burning. It’s like they put pepper spray in your eyes,” witness Victor Santos said.

Homeowners had the flames in their backyard and the smoke in their living rooms.

Oge Okomkwo met the flames up close.

“I work from home, so it was a little terrifying because I was on my work station and at first it sounded like a strong wind, and then my dog is obviously antsy, so look through the window, and it’s like, flames and fumes,” she said.

One family decided it was best to pack up and get out after earlier having to run for their lives.

“I was sleeping, then all the smoke come up, and we started just out of the house, running like crazy,” witness Jorge Rodrigeuz said.

They will spend at least one night in a hotel.

“How’s the house look?” Brennan asked Carolyn Perez.

“It just smells like smoke,” she said.

Soot made its way through the air, landing on cars and people.

The fire billowed just a few miles from Newark Liberty International Airport, and it seems planes were almost touching the smoke, but the Port Authority said there were no delays and they didn’t have to reroute any flights.

“When you’re looking up at this, what goes through your head when you look at this?” Brennan asked one witness.

“It’s crazy, man, that it’s so close. And you never know, it could have been worse,” he said.

Crews will not be able to enter the building for at least another day since it is partially collapsed.  

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