NEW YORK - A cargo ship in Port Newark continues to burn after catching fire 36 hours ago.
The blaze killed two firefighters and injured five others, and now there’s concern the firefighters were sent into an extremely complex situation they were not properly trained for.
The Coast Guard has brought in expert marine firefighters to battle the blaze on board the Grande Costa D’Avorio, which is expected to take days to extinguish.
Until that’s done, the investigation into the cause and what went wrong is stalled.
"As the investigations unfold, and we get lessons learned from this," said Bethann Roone, Port, Director of the Port Authority of New York, and New Jersey, "Everything is on the table for consideration."
The Coast Guard and National Transportation Board of Safety are on standby, waiting to open their investigation into what caused the blaze Wednesday night, as crews loaded cars onto the ship.
Newark Fire Department radio reveals the dispatchers' panic, as crews arrived to find 5-to-7 cars on fire around 9:30 pm.
The intense heat from the fire pushed back firefighters. Veteran firefighters Augustine Acabou and Wayne Brooks Jr were unable to escape and were killed. Five others were sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
"Access is tough, the heat is extreme, it's a steel box, so it’s a very complex situation and you need a very good plan to put firefighters in the vessel," said Gordon Lorenson, DonJon Marine Project Manager.
At a news conference Friday, officials were peppered with questions about the firefighters’ lack of shipboard fire training. They said the Newark Fire Department receives regular training from both the port authority and the Coast Guard. Even so— this was an extremely complex and dangerous operation.
"Shipboard fires are unique, they’re constantly changing, every single one is different," said Lorenson. "You can do all the training in the world and you’re going to find some thing you’ve never seen before."
The cargo ship is both burning and filling with water. Crews are working to attempt to ensure it doesn’t tip over.
Other car-carrying cargo ships are anchored nearby and unable to dock until the fire is put out.
"The fire is going to burn four a couple more days probably," said Tom Wiker, president of Gallagher Marine Systems. "It’s impossible to give you really any kind of definitive timeline."
The goal is to cool the ship, contain the fire, and get the water out of it, so it doesn’t sink.