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'A phoenix rising from the ashes:' Marcal Paper Mills up and running again

ELMWOOD PARK – Marcal is making paper again, almost a year to the day after a 10-alarm blaze leveled much of the plant and toppled the iconic Marcal sign over Route 80.

The site is still largely vacant, but Marcal CEO Rob Baron said on Friday, "We need to get back to work."

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, and Gov. Phil Murphy were among a collection of dignitaries and local officials on hand in one of the few buildings that survived the devastating fire at the plant.

Pascrell said that he was good friends with the father of Peter Marcalus. Peter is the grandson of Marcal's founder, Nicholas Marcalus. 

“I knew Peter’s father for years, and although the Marcalus family is no longer managing the company, it’s still a family operation,” Pascrell said. “Anyone else would have walked away, but Rob [Baron] didn’t. I wouldn’t either, and I’m so proud of everyone here for it.”

The cause of the blaze has never been determined. Investigators with the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office conducted more than 100 interviews and concluded that the fire started in the most northeastern building on the southern side of the railroad tracks. It began in a storage area that held large rolls of paper.

Bergen County Executive James Tedesco said  the re-opening of the plant was “like a phoenix rising from the ashes, being reborn.”

He noted that the paper products factory is important as one of the few manufacturing sites left in the county, a sentiment Elmwood Park Mayor Robert Colletti echoed.

“This means that the economic class has been restored in Elmwood Park,” Colletti said. “To go through this level of devastation and be able to come back from that in a year is tremendous."

Cleanup started on the property in August and included a comprehensive demolition of the affected areas as well as regulated cleanup to ensure the process was environmentally sound and safe for residents.

Police Chief Michael Foligno, who also serves as borough administrator, was one of the first officers on the scene. He remembers seeing the Marcal sign as a child and knowing he was home. The sign was erected in 1948 and, after going dark for several years, restored by Soundview Paper Company, which owns Marcal.

Battling the fire on that frigid January night cost Elmwood Park nearly $185,000. Foligno said that the borough has recouped all that they expected to from insurance to cover those costs.

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