Fire aboard cargo ship in Port Newark now out; Union pushes for new hires

The fire aboard the Italian cargo ship Grande Costa D’Avorio that broke out last week at Port Newark is now out, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

The next step is investigating the cause of the fire and breaking down the ship for scrap.

“The salvage process could easily be one to two months,” Coast Guard Capt. Zeita Merchant said during a news conference.

Two veteran Newark firefighters died fighting the fire. Augusto Acabou, 45, and Wayne Brooks, Jr., 49, are set to be laid to rest on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Left: Wayne Brooks, Jr. and right: Augusto Acabou

The ship was carrying used cars destined for Africa with a stop in Providence, Rhode Island in between, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“The decks of the ship is essentially a parking garage,” Port Director Beth Rooney said. “What we had burning were components and parts of cars.”

Tests of the air and water around the ship’s berth came back below actionable levels, said Kevin Perry of Gallagher Marine Systems, the company hired by the ship’s owner, Grimaldi Group, to extinguish the fire and conduct salvage operations.

Meanwhile the Newark firefighters’ union held a separate news conference Tuesday.

Union leaders voiced concerns about what they describe as aging, poorly maintained firefighting equipment and inadequate staffing levels in the department.

The union says the City of Newark has 80 firefighter jobs currently unfilled.

The union president says trucks are being sent out with a contingent of one captain and two firefighters each, despite industry standards calling for crews twice that size.

Adding, “According to the city’s budget, the Newark Fire Division has 80 unfilled firefighter positions – and even that fails to meet the industry standard set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).”

Governor Phil Murphy says staffing should be increased, but he has not committed to providing state resources to make it happen.

On Monday, the governor praised firefighters.

“The fact this fire was aboard a ship made for a very complicated situation. Yet, our first responders adapted and rose to the occasion. Once again, they have proven we have the world’s best firefighters and first responders and we all marvel at their skill and professionalism and courage,” Murphy said.

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