Firefighters braved frigid weather to battle the fire that continued to smolder Thursday morning at the Marcal Paper Mills in Elmwood Park.
The fire broke out at about 5 p.m. Wednesday at the plant on Market Street and went to eight alarms.
Huge paper rolls in the warehouse were fully engulfed in flames, and the roof collapsed. All emergency responders were pulled from the building for safety reasons.
The fire spread to propane tanks and other combustibles. Firefighters eventually decided to just let the fire burn itself out.
Black smoke could be seen from as far away as Route 80 in Hackensack.
Over 150 firefighters responded, but the strong wind and frigid temperatures made their efforts that much more difficult.
"The main ingredient there is the wind and that just feeds a flame and feeds a fire and causes it to spread rapidly," said Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno.
There have been no reports of injuries. Firefighters from at least 10 towns in the area responded.
Fire officials were concerned about embers from the blaze affecting nearby homes and businesses on River Drive, at the east end of the factory.
Residents who live near the plant were evacuated from their homes as a safety precaution.
Stuart Cameron, who lives just five homes down from the plant, said he knew from the start they would have to evacuate.
"The wind was blowing it right towards our house," said Cameron. "Chunks of burning paper falling down onto the roofs, the trees, the grass. The grass, constantly having to stomp out the fire."
The fire caused heavy smoke condition on area roads, and the ramp on I-80 to Exit 61 was closed in both directions. The road closures have prompted area schools to close for Thursday.
A passenger took a photo of the fire as his plane was approaching Newark Airport.
New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell said he would be visiting the site to offer help to the community and the affected employees.
The fire is the second reported this month at the plant. In 2017, more than 100 firefighters were called to extinguish a blaze there.
Rob Baron, President and Chief Executive Officer of Soundview Paper Company, issued the following statement about the fire:
"On Wednesday afternoon, a devastating fire engulfed our mill in Elmwood Park. In the hours that followed, first responders from multiple surrounding communities exhibited extraordinary bravery, commitment and skill - risking their lives fighting this terrible blaze in frigid conditions. We are enormously grateful for their selfless service. The full extent of the damage to our facility is not yet known, but we know the impact will be incalculable to the lives of our dedicated workers and our business as a whole. We are fortunate and thankful that none of the nearly 200 employees working at the mill at the time of the fire were injured, and we are assisting the first responders on site in every way we can. Our top priority in the coming days and weeks will be to support our associates at Marcal whose lives will be directly impacted by this disaster. We will have further updates as the situation unfolds."