Fire Destroys NJ Chemical Manufacturer's Facility

By Sarah Glover and Vince Lattanzio
|  Thursday, May 8, 2014  |  Updated 11:35 PM EDT
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    Firefighters are still on the scene of a blaze at a Camden County, N.J. chemical manufacturer where several small explosions were reported inside a packaging facility.

    The fire began around 1 p.m. on Thursday inside a large building for ResinTech, a resin maker and builder of water filtration equipment, along 160 Cooper Road in West Berlin, N.J., Berlin Township fire officials said.

    William Duxes, West Berlin Fire Department Public Information Officer, said the building is where the company packages goods for shipment. A manufacturing facility is nearby and not involved. He said there have been no concerns about hazardous materials endangering the public.

    "The water runoff has been monitored from the beginning by the hazardous materials team with negative readings," Duxes said.

    Fire crews reported small explosions taking place inside the building during the beginning of the firefight. Duxes said officials believe propane tanks, attached to forklifts used in the facility, ignited causing the blasts.

    Five fire companies from Berlin Township and surrounding towns responded to help fight the fire, Berlin Township Police Chief Leonard Check said.

    Part of the building's roof collapsed as crews sprayed high-pressure water jets into the structure from above. The roof is lined with dozens of rows of solar panels, which could be an electrocution danger for firefighters.

    "The solar panels, even though they're on the roof, when they receive any light at all, they still generate power," said Duxes.

    Firefighters were forced to knock down an outer wall of the facility to expose the collapsed solar panels as well as to fight flare-ups.

    Flames also spread into trucking trailers next to the building.

    "I think if the buildings were closer, it could have been even worse," said witness Morgan Peacock.

    Roughly two dozen people work inside the building and all have been safely evacuated, Check said.

    Duxes said it took fire crews some time to get the adequate amount of water on the blaze because of long distances between the facility and other hydrants. He said once additional equipment arrived, that was no longer an issue.

    Chris Peters, who handles public relations for nearby Sahara Sam's Oasis Water Park, said the fire has been contained to only one ResinTech building and that officials have not called for widespread evacuations. The water park and other surrounding businesses remained open.

    Peters also said water park staffers, trained in firefighting, jumped in to help fight the blaze.

    Firefighters remain on the scene in an effort to put out any hotspots.

    ResinTech makes ion exchange resins which are used in water softening and water treatment to pull out impurities, according to the company's website. Their entire complex spans 75,000 square feet and includes offices, a manufacturing facility and warehouse.

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