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Fuel Tank Fire Smothered; 10 Sustain Minor Injuries

July 10, 1986

BAYONNE, N.J. (AP) _ Firefighters pumped thousands of gallons of foam into four blazing fuel tanks to smother a New York Harbor industrial complex fire that sent smoke billowing over the metropolitan area, officials said.

Ten people sustained minor injuries in the blaze, which burned for 10 hours after it broke out Wednesday afternoon in a 376,000-gallon tank and forced the closing of the Kill Van Kull waterway separating Bayonne and Staten Island, N.Y.

The blaze at the International Matex Tank Terminals Co. spread to three tanks filled with gasoline, diesel fuel and acetone, a solvent, authorities said. Smoke billowed 1,000 feet and as far east as the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

″I’ve never felt heat like that,″ said William Strumila, an Erie, Pa., truck driver who was unloading a delivery when somebody yelled ″Fire 3/8″

″I jumped in the truck and started to get ... out of there. One guy said ‘Forget it 3/8’ and I just ran,″ Strumila said.

Authorities did not know how many people were at the complex but one witness, truck driver George Rodrigues, estimated that 150 people fled.

At least 10 people suffered minor injuries, including a burned man who drove himself to a hospital, two Coast Guard officers and several firefighters, Police Chief James Sisk said.

The fire department used at least 20,000 gallons of foam to fight the blaze, said Bayonne fire dispatcher Joe Pelliccia.

The New York City Fire Department sent three fireboats and the Coast Guard used six vessels and a helicopter to help battle the blaze.

The fire was detected by remote cameras that the Coast Guard has stationed around the harbor and the Kill Van Kull, said Petty Officer Michael Price.

Deborah Mazza, 22, of Bayonne, who was at her mother’s home two blocks from the harborside complex, said nearby residents do not live in fear of the tanks, but steer clear of them.

″You learn how to drive your car around it and you stay away - kids don’t play down here,″ she said.

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