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Meadows site burns again; confab held

Photo courtesy of KFD Firefighters pay return visit to composting site

Photo courtesy of KFD
Firefighters pay return visit to composting site

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY —

That pesky mulch pile in the meadows that went up in flames March 4 — and at least twice before — caught fire yet again March 14, Kearny fire officials have reported.

The alert for the latest blaze at the Nature’s Choice Corp. property at 1 Baler Blvd., just off the Belleville Pike, was called in by an observant driver passing by on the N.J. Turnpike, said Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl.

Units from the Kearny and North Arlington Fire Departments responded to the 8:50 p.m. alarm, and the blaze was declared under control at 11 p.m. Firefighters remained at the scene, however, until 2:10 a.m. The Jersey City Fire Department provided coverage of the towns while the local units were on site. The incident commander at the scene was KFD Deputy Chief Joe Viscuso.

The investigation into the cause of the latest conflagration has been turned over to the state Division of Fire Safety, but it “does not appear to be suspicious,” Dyl noted.

State investigators are also looking into the March 4 fire, which lit up the skies over the meadows and resulted in a brush fire that burned several acres, authorities reported.

Nature’s Choice operates a composting facility on the land, which is leased from the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. Over the course of 20 years, the property apparently has been leased to a succession of private firms.

Following the earlier fire, Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos said the property, on an NJMC landfill straddling the Kearny/North Arlington border, “has been the site of recurring fires, which have been imposing a strain on firefighter overtime, which has been a source of concern for us for several years.”

Commenting on the latest blaze, Santos noted, “If there are multiple visits to a site, and repeated fires, we have the ability to assess a fee against the tenant.”

There is no word as to whether such a fee will be assessed, but on Friday fire officials met with the NJMC. As a result, Dyl said, the Division of Fire Safety will work with Nature’s Choice, the NJMC, and the Kearny and North Arlington Fire Departments in an attempt to resolve the problems.

On Monday, the commission issued a brief statement, noting: “The NJMC will continue to cooperate and work together with all parties involved.”

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