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Port Newark Cargo Ship Fire Continues to Burn Days After Deaths of 2 Firefighters

NEWARK, N.J. — The deadly Port Newark cargo ship fire was still burning Friday, two days after it started, and authorities expect it to last at least two more days.

More black smoke started filling the sky around 8 a.m. as loud popping noises signaled cars on the Grande Costa D’Avorio were burning once again.

Multiple agencies and environmental experts are on the scene to make sure first responders, port workers and people living nearby are safe.

Firefighter Augusto Acabou and Wayne Brooks Jr. died when they became trapped in the inferno on Wednesday, when the fire on the vessel first started on the 10th story and consumed several levels. Five other firefighters were injured and sources told CBS New York that other first responders reported being impacted by the thick smoke.

“The Newark firefighters will be etched in the city’s history, public safety’s history and the fire department’s history forever. Lost but not forgotten,” Newark Public Safety Director Fritz Frage said.

Commanders on the scene said the fire is still extremely challenging. 

“Access is tough. The heat is extreme. It’s a steel box, so it’s a very complex situation and you need a very good plan to be able to put firefighters in the vessel to actually put out these fires. It’s burning very hot, so currently a lot of the decks that are burning and the cars that are burning are inaccessible to our fire teams, so best situation is to cool the vessel from the perimeter,” said Gordon Lorenson, Donjon Marine Co. project manager.

“Salvage and specifically shipboard firefighting is extremely complex operation and requires responders to consider long-term firefighting efforts, damage and discretion of the vessel and environmental impacts,” said Coast Guard Captain Zeida Merchant.

“There’s a team of 20-plus firefighters and additional salvage support who have been fighting this fire around the clock since it began,” said Tom Wiker, president of Gallagher Marine Systems.

The unified command, involving the Port Authority, Newark Fire Department and Gallagher Marine Systems, the representative for the ship, are jointly tackling the plan for the next upcoming days.

Crews are spraying the vessel with water from the pier. But officials remain concerned excess water could cause the ship to tip, so additional crews are pumping water out and poking holes in the hull to allow water to drain out.

“The issue of the ship listing is a growing concern. It is currently listing three degrees toward the dock. A five- to six-degree shift is the danger zone,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “There is no timeline as to if or when the ship would reach the danger zone, as it remains to be seen how successful this operation will be.”

“Our number one priority is safety to our responders while officially extinguishing the fire, and this requires careful coordination for our firefighters and fire-suppression mechanism being utilized,” Merchant said.

“There is structural issues always caused by fire within a vessel, so we are monitoring that all times,” Lorenson said.

The ship representatives said they detected sulfur dioxide readings above actionable levels overnight while continuing to monitor water and air quality.

“They were seen at the stern of the vessel. We took action to move personnel away as necessary and then when those levels became safe we brought personnel back to the area,” Wiker said.

Port Newark cargo ship fire

A task force is also monitoring environmental impacts. 

“No reported release of oil from the vessel, as of yet. Yesterday morning there were some unconfirmed reports of sheen in the area, but we verified by both drone and waterside assessment that there was no sheening noted,” said Wiker.

Officials say they have four stationary air monitoring devices next to the ship and a mobile unit being used around the port. So far, there have not been any big concerns.

The Port Authority said firefighters go through training for situations like this several times a year. Newark has two vessels at the port. 

“We do not have a fire department within the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,” said Director Bethann Roone. “But as this investigation unfolds, everything is on the table for consideration.”

Several agencies are investigating the cause, but they can’t begin until it’s safe to go onboard the ship. It won’t be possible until the fire is out and the ship cools off. 

The Grimaldi Group, operator of the ship, said the Grande Costa D’Avorio caught fire Wednesday as cars, vans and trucks were being loaded. None of the vehicles were electric, they said. 

Source : CBS