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Fire Forces Hundreds From Homes

March 21, 1985

PLAINFIELD, N.J. (AP) _ Fire broke out Wednesday at a warehouse where polyvinyl chloride pipes are stored, forcing the evacuations of hundreds of nearby residents and sending about 50 people to the hospital for inhalation of noxious fumes.

About 100 firefighters shot water at the blaze at midnight, almost 12 hours after it broke out inside the block-long building, said fire Lt. Willam Darby.

″It’s really deep-seated,″ Darby said. ″They still have a lot of heavy appliances shooting water onto it at this time.″

The warehouse, owned by Oliver Brown Trucking Co. Inc. of Middlesex, was leased to a Newark company that kept the plastic pipes there, said Pat Turner, a city spokeswoman.

Fire Lt. Donald Stauder said residences and businesses - including a day car center - in a five-block area adjacent the warehouse were evacuated.

The fire was contained within about four hours.

Ms. Turner estimated that about 1,000 people were living in the area that was ordered evacuated. About 200 people sought temporary shelter at the Plainfield High School, where they waited to learn whether they could return home, she said.

Linda Rosebrock, an administrative assistant with the American Red Cross, said the agency had prepared to set up cots and keep evacuees overnight at the high school, if necessary.

State Department of Environmental Protection workers would monitor the air in the evacuated four-block neighborhood before deciding whether to allow residents to return home, Darby said.

One person was admitted to Muhlenberg Hospital, where at least 46 other police officers, firefighters and civilians were treated and released, mostly for smoke inhalation, said Susan Alcorn, a hospital spokeswoman.

When polyvinyl chloride burns, it emits a caustic hydrogen chloride gas, said James Staples, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

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