A raging inferno engulfed more than a dozen cars in a Newark Airport parking lot early Thursday, spewing thick black smoke into the air as high-powered flames turned vehicles into charred carcasses.
A law enforcement source tells News 4 a total of 17 cars were burned, all but two of them totaled. A cause of the fire is under investigation, but it appears to have started in one of the vehicles that was toasted.
A law enforcement source initially said the 26-year-old owner of that vehicle, a 2006 Dodge Durango, was arrested when he came to check on the car, but a Port Authority spokeswoman later said the man was detained, but not arrested, for outstanding traffic warrants and a suspended license.
He was released when no law enforcement agency came to take him, and was not charged, according to the spokeswoman.
The law enforcement source says the man told cops he was working on his alternator a few weeks ago -- and authorities are looking into that as a possible cause for the vast fire that consumed the lot.
Chopper 4 over the scene showed firefighters standing near the flaming vehicles, trying to battle the blaze in wind chills as low as -15 degrees. The Port Authority said the lot involved in the fire was regular parking at Terminal C, not long-term.
It also said no injuries were reported and airport operations were not affected. The passenger pickup area in the immediate vicinity was briefly closed, and the fire-wrecked Terminal C parking garage was shut down until further notice. Anyone who may have been parked in the garage is advised to head to the Terminal C Level 1 taxi stand for further assistance, the airport's official Twitter feed said later Thursday morning.
Fires also tore through buildings in Brooklyn and the Bronx early Thursday. In Brooklyn, huge flames devoured a one-story vacant warehouse on Vernon Avenue shortly before 4 a.m., sending thick smoke across the neighborhood and into nearby homes, witnesses told News 4.
About 170 firefighting personnel responded to the five-alarm scene near the elevated subway tracks. Train service wasn't affected, but the smoke rose all the way to the rails. Nearby apartments were not evacuated.
Witnesses described a stench that made them feel as if they were in the middle of a bonfire.
Less than a half-hour after the Brooklyn fire erupted, firefighters got a call about a two-alarm fire at a Richman Plaza high-rise in the Bronx's Morris Heights neighborhood. Emergency transmissions indicated the fire broke out on the fifth floor of a 46-story mixed-occupancy building.
No injuries were immediately reported in either of the New York City fires, causes of which were under investigation.
Meanwhile, a seven-alarm inferno that ripped through a paper mill in New Jersey's Elmwood Park on Wednesday continued to burn early Thursday, more than 12 hours after it started spewing smoke that was seen miles away.
Firefighters encountered difficult conditions as water they tried to use to douse the flames turned to ice in the sub-zero wind chills. About 200 employees were working at the facility of the time, authorities said; no one was hurt in that case either.