Marcal Fire a Tragedy for Displaced Workers, Passaic County Citizens


Chris Feliz

Courtesy of Chris Feliz

Marialexa Molina, Contributing Writer

Erected in 1939, the famous Marcal Paper Plant building no longer stands. On Wednesday Jan. 30, a large fire burned 90 percent of the building’s structure, according to police chief Michael Foligno. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

For those driving on Route 80 on Jan. 30, the heat could be felt radiating from the burning building as they drove by. The fire had started at around 5 p.m. There were a few workers still inside of the factory when the fire began, but they were able to evacuate quickly and safely. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries.

The massive 425,000-square-foot warehouse almost completely burned down, including the iconic Marcal sign that overlooked the area for many years. The fire was finally under control almost seven hours later around midnight. Locals mentioned that some flames were still spewing out of the building at around 3 a.m. on Thursday.

Windy conditions made it hard for firefighters to put out the massive fire because its embers were carried to adjacent buildings. Despite there being no casualties, due to the fire’s size, homes and businesses nearby had to be evacuated. River Road and Exit 61 to Route 80 had to be partially shut down because there was a plethora of thick smoke created by all the burning material. Schools nearby had also cancelled classes for the following day.

The company employed about 500 local workers at a time for multiple years. The fire left all the Marcal employees without a job.

After 80 years of existence, Marcal had become a landmark for those who lived in Passaic County. The building was located on Market Street next to the Passaic River and in between Elmwood Park and Paterson. Many of those who had driven on Route 80 had gotten a glimpse of the big LED sign that displayed the name “Marcal.” For those that lived in the adjacent towns, the sign was a symbol of home.

Previous owner Peter Marcalus visited the area after the damage had been done. A family-owned business passed down through three generations was now reduced to ashes.

Many other mills in the North Jersey area moved their operations to China for cheaper production in the past, but Marcal stayed in New Jersey, supplying local businesses with paper and the residents with jobs. In 2006, Marcal filed for bankruptcy due to financial struggle, but after being bought by Soundview Paper Company, business was improving. The mill had also gone through and survived other fires in the past.

Marcal was the first to produce napkins, paper towels and toilet paper in an eco-friendly way and managed to do so until its last day.

The fire ended a very cherished landmark that, for many, had become a part of everyday life. Marcal Paper Mills Inc. was in business for over 50 years.

A GoFundMe page has been started to help those who have been affected by the incident.