Two firefighters were killed battling a blaze that began when cars caught fire deep inside a cargo ship carrying 5,000 cars at a New Jersey port, Newark’s fire chief said Thursday. Five other firefighters were injured but were expected to recover.
Responding firefighters found five to seven vehicles already on fire when they reached the 10th floor of the cargo ship at Port Newark around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night. The blaze quickly extended to the 11th and 12th floors, and as firefighters were pushed back by the intense heat, two of them were lost, Fire Chief Rufus Jackson said at a news conference.
Firefighters weren’t initially able to find their colleagues and outside rescue companies from around the state were called in. They were found and removed from the structure, but unfortunately they lost their lives, Jackson said.
“Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the loss of two Newark firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty,” Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement.. “This tragedy is a painful reminder of the dangers our firefighters face and their remarkable courage.”
Three Newark firefighters were being treated for injuries suffered in the blaze, while two Elizabeth firefighters suffered from smoke inhalation. All were expected to recover, but their names and details on their conditions were not disclosed.
Marine traffic trackers show the Grande Costa D’Avorio, which was built in 2011, arrived from the Port of Baltimore several days earlier.
“We lost two firefighters today,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka at the scene. “A tragedy for us in the city of Newark and tragic for all firefighters who know what it means to go in a burning structure in a danger that you are going to have to experience when you do so.”
Baraka said he saw unparalleled acts of bravery and camaraderie, but he called the loss traumatic for all of Newark. The fire was still burning while officials spoke at the news conference, but they would continue to work to put it out, Baraka said.
Shipboard firefighting is a unique skill and Newark firefighters don’t commonly face this kind of fire, Jackson said. He said they trained on ships before, but it was a vessel that had compartments and living quarters, not a ship like this.
“Although this is a difficult fire, a different type of fire, they’re still willing to put themselves on the line for others,” the chief said. “This is a unique service that we’re in. We love what we do. We love each other and we protect each other. It’s unfortunate when we have loss. This is a tragedy. This is something that I as a chief never want to face, but we have to be there, we have to be strong for the family at this point.”