Fire expected to burn a few more days on cargo ship at Port Newark that killed 2 firefighters

The fire on a cargo ship at Port Newark that killed two firefighters continued to burn Friday and was projected to burn for at least a few more days.

The firefighting efforts were being prolonged by vehicle gas tanks that continue to explode, adding literal fuel to the fire.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the fire spread significantly overnight and went down two floors of the ship and extended roughly 300 feet forward.

The governor said the “multiple firefighters on the ship itself” are “all privately contracted by the ships owner and have specialized training in marine firefighting.”

Murphy said the ship continues to list and that is “a growing concern, it is currently listing 3 degrees toward the dock, a 5 to 6 degree shift is the danger zone.”

He said both the Coast Guard and a private marine company are poking holes through the hull to allow the trapped water to drain out, but due to significant debris, the normal outflow spouts are clogged and “water is not able to flow out at the rate it is able to flow in, that means the issue of the ship listing is a growing concern.”

“There is no timeline as to if or when the ship would reach the danger zone, as it remains to be seen how successful this operation will be,” Murphy said.

Newark’s fire chief says his department did not have adequate training or equipment to deal with the flames and that dealing with cars filled with gas on a cargo ship is extremely difficult.

The two firefighters were killed after they became trapped while fighting the blaze Wednesday night. Crews responded around 9:30 p.m. at Export Street and Marsh Street in Newark.

The fire started on the 10th deck as crew members and local stevedores were moving cars, vans and trucks. Upon arrival, firefighters located the fire, which broke out in five to seven cars and spread to the 11th and 12th floors of the ship, named the Grande Costa D’Avorio.

“Members made an attempt to extinguish the fire but got pushed back by the intense heat. Two firefighters were lost while conducting this action of backing out of the structure,” Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson said.

The firefighters were eventually located inside the large ship and pronounced dead. Those victims were identified as Augusto “Augie” Acabou, 45, and Wayne “Bears” Brooks Jr., 49.

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

Acabou was a nine-year veteran of the of the Newark Fire Department and was assigned to Engine 16. Brooks served for 16.5 years and was assigned to Ladder 4.

At least five firefighters were injured while battling the flames. Three of those victims were members of the Newark Fire Department, and two from the Elizabeth Fire Dept. They were transported to University Hospital in Newark for treatment.

The fire is burning very hot, said Gordon Lorenson of Donjon Marine, a salvage company. The ship is a steel box inaccessible to firefighters so the only thing to do is cool it by keep it doused and try to keep the flames contained.

The vessel is stable but they’d like to keep it even by pumping out water to reduce the list. Officials say there is no sheening in the water and Air Quality is also being monitored.

This ship generally operates between the U.S. and West Africa. It carries more than 1,200 new and used vehicles and 157 containers. No electric cars or hazardous cargo were on the ship.

Other ships are staying at anchor, waiting to move the cargo, mostly other car carriers, officials said.

They noted that 99.5% of container activity was not impacted.

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