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Marcal Paper fire: CEO 'exploring options' for a restart in Elmwood Park, N.J.

ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. (From news reports) -- Nearly three months after a devastating 10-alarm fire destroyed most of Marcal Paper Mills, the company's chief executive officer said he is open to starting anew in the borough.

Rob Baron, president and CEO of Marcal parent company Soundview Paper Co., said in a statement that he has been working with borough officials to restore utilities on the site and assess the viability of restarting operations in the borough. The company did not elaborate on which operations would be revived.

"While it is too soon to comment with certainty, we have begun exploring options for a successful restart in Elmwood Park." Baron said. "We are still very much in cleanup and recovery mode."

An inferno consumed the Marcal Paper complex on Jan. 30, toppling the iconic red Marcal sign that for decades illuminated a section of Route 80 in Elmwood Park. The cause of the blaze remains unknown.

Over 100 tons of debris has been removed from the site as part of a massive cleanup, the statement said.

Ongoing repairs at the site of the paper mill include the fire suppression system, city and river water systems and the restoration of electrical infrastructure. The company also stated that it wants to purchase parts to restart "key equipment."

"The resilience of our team and our community inspires us to do everything we can to have this business rise from the ashes," Baron said.

Michael Foligno, the borough administrator and police chief, said the Building Department has not received any applications for either building or demolition.

After the fire, the paper company's first priority was to put the 500 employees who lost their jobs back to work.

The fire destroyed 16 acres of Marcal property and left 500 employees without jobs. Since then, Marcal has employed 136 people to assist in the recovery efforts, Baron said. An additional 57 former employees have found jobs elsewhere, Baron said.

"Priority one was and remains helping those Marcal family members whose jobs were lost," Baron said.

To aid employees who lost their jobs, company representatives held two job fairs, launched an employee support website and gave each employee $5,500 for "transition assistance" and extended health benefits, said the statement.

The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office declined to comment on the status of the fire investigation. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a federal agency, conducted an initial inquiry into a potential cause of the blaze and reported their findings to the Prosecutor's Office in mid-February.

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