Large parts of Newark, New Jersey, and nearby New York City woke up to a cloud of cough-inducing smoke early Tuesday caused by a massive junkyard fire. The blaze, which reportedly broke out at the Eastern Metal Recycling Terminal in Port Newark around 8:30 p.m. local time on Monday, was still raging nearly 12 hours later as firefighters struggled to snuff out the flames. The fire’s origin remains unclear.
Newark’s Department of Public Safety released a statement around 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday saying the fire scene “remains active” and that firefighters are utilizing a system capable of pumping 10,000 gallons of water per minute.
Helicopter footage from local outlet ABC7 showed firefighters using large crane-like excavators to sift through large heaps of burning scrap metal like some kind of dystopian claw machine rummaging for toys buried beneath mounds of sheet metal. Several pockets of fire flared up as the crews worked, sending plumes of thick, acrid smoke up into the air. Smoke from the fire grew so dense that it could be seen blanketing over nearby lower Manhattan.
Some local residents posting on Twitter claimed to have awoken early in the morning by the intense smell of smoke creeping into their bedroom. Others, meanwhile, said they smelled the burning air and initially thought their car might have caught fire. News 12 New Jersey reported that some residents claimed to have smelled the smoke as far away as Manhattan, which as the image above shows, doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Despite an abrupt awakening for some, the fire so far has not led to any deaths or damage to nearby buildings, according to local outlets.
The air quality index, a measure of various types of air pollution, is currently around 160 for a number of stations across the region, including Jersey City, Manhattan, and Queens. That indicates “unhealthy” air. While other types of pollution contribute to worsening air quality, the fire is undoubtedly playing a role; air quality upwind and further from the site of the junkyard remains relatively good.
Port Newark was the sight of another scrapyard fire four months ago. In that case, winds reportedly spread the smoke up to parts of upper Manhattan and the Bronx. Clearly someone needs to figure out just what the heck is going on over there.