Most of a massive fire that tore through a North Brunswick, New Jersey warehouse is under control, officials say, but as a precaution, evacuated residents will not be allowed to return to their homes Wednesday night.

By late afternoon, the fire was 85 percent out, and the Environmental Protection Agency said the air quality surrounding North Brunswick appeared to be safe.

The five-alarm fire broke out just after 2:30 a.m. inside the DCH Collision Center on Livingston Avenue. The fire was mainly in the center of the building Wednesday morning when it started. “We were trying to maintain it from running the length of the building towards the south and we were unsuccessful in doing that,” said North Brunswick Fire Chief Donald Salzmann.

North Brunswick firefighters answered the call of an alarm to the back side of the building. But after fire officials say the sprinkler system was unable to contain the fire, additional manpower was called in from five surrounding counties.

Salzman said that firefighters were concentrating their efforts on flames in the part of the building that houses a plastics business.

Firefighters decided to let it burn out and were on the scene dealing with hot spots throughout the evening, the chief said.

And with smoke still blanketing a residential complex next door, about 200 people who fled to a nearby shelter could not go home for the night.

“It’ll remain throughout the night and into tomorrow and that’s why we’re taking precautionary measures to not let people into their buildings,” an official said.

“That was one of my main concerns because we’re so close. We were right in the line of fire should the wind blow in that direction,” a resident said.

Now they’ll spend an anxious night away from home during a night of constant air quality tests.

Officials say they believe the smoke is not toxic, but many evacuees aren’t so sure.

“We still have like the cinders and all the pollution so we need them to wash them away,” a resident said.

Officials must wait for the fire to be extinguished before they can begin their investigation into the cause.

Lingering smoke in the area affected air quality and officials warned residents to stay inside and away from fumes.

“At this time, we’ve been monitoring the air quality,” said North Brunswick Mayor Mack Womack.

The EPA is monitoring the air quality as is Middlesex County HAZMAT units as the smoke plume moves down due to the burning plastics. An EPA official said while there are concerns about toxins, current readings have not revealed any health threats.

“We are aware and very cautious with regard of any kind of toxics there could be,” Womack said.

Eight businesses were destroyed in a warehouse that contained a myriad of home finishing products. “Most of it is modern combustible stuff, but it does give off a toxic smoke,” said Salzmann.

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