HILLSBOROUGH TWP., N.J. (WPVI) --It's been more than 24 hours since firefighters began battling a raging warehouse fire in northern New Jersey that destroyed a half million square feet including two buildings, burning nonstop and in deep-freeze conditions.
Schools were closed in the area Friday morning as the massive fire, which had been burning for 15 hours, sent huge plumes of smoke billowing into the air.
The smoke trail was so massive it could be seen on the horizon from Chopper 6 HD over Center City Philadelphia, some 60 miles away.
The fire broke out before 3:30 p.m. Thursday at a warehouse complex on U.S. 206 in Hillsborough Township, raging on overnight and producing large plumes of smoke that could be seen for miles.
Route 206 reopened Friday morning after being closed for the evening rush hour on Thursday.
"It's terrible. The wind, the cold, the freezing. We have to rotate our people a lot more often," said Hillsborough Fire Department Chief Christopher Weniger. "We're having problems with the ice of course, apparatus problems."
The bright orange flames increased in intensity as weather conditions worked against several hundred volunteer firefighters battling the blaze.
"The wind was blowing it so horribly that we would set up to try and stop it and it would run right by us," Weniger said.
In addition to blustery winds and chilling temperatures, fire marshals said inadequate sprinkler systems and outdated water supplies made their job harder as the fire peaked at seven alarms.
"The other problem that we have on this site because of the old infrastructure that's there is we don't have real good water pressure. And so that's why you see these tanker operations going on.
"We're actually bringing water in so on top of the weather, on top of the commodity - the stuff that's burning inside of there - on top of the infrastructure issues, you put all that together, it makes it a very difficult battle," said Weniger.
Here's a look at the fire:
A local news viewer provided this view of the fire that can be seen for miles:
An image of up-close smoke pouring out of the warehouse was captured:
With multiple aide help, there are 50-100 firefighters working rotations round the clock.
Mayor Frank DelCore of Hillsborough addressed air-quality concerns regarding the smoke that's been billowing for hours across miles.
"We have the DEP and the EPA on site doing air-quality monitoring," said DelCore. "There is no imminent public health threat at this point, but they continue to monitor and will continue to do so through the weekend."
Still, officials are asking everyone to avoid the smoke, saying it could be days before the fire is completely out.
Just what sparked the blaze inside these warehouses storing furniture, records and plastic pellets is still unknown, but crews were able to contain the flames to just two buildings.
Officials say some rail cars behind the property were also consumed, but fortunately no chemicals were inside.
"Firefighting in the cold, water, wind, all that stuff takes a toll on everybody and so that certainly is making it hazardous work conditions with ice on the ground on our people," Weniger said.
Fortunately, fire officials say there have been no injuries, and there are no homes directly on this fire's path.