Marcal paper mill reopening nearly a year after devastating fire

NEW JERSEY (News release) -- Nearly a year after a devastating fire burned the Marcal Paper Mill to the ground, the mill will be open again for business.

The mill is planning to reopen sometime in January, Rob Baron, a president and the chief executive officer of Marcal Paper said in a statement on Monday. He did not provide a specific opening date, but said a merger with Pennsylvania-based Nittany Paper made the reopening possible.

"We understand that many in our family lost a lot the day the fire struck our mill, and we have done everything possible to try to help them recover. We also understand what Marcal means to Elmwood Park, to Bergen County and to New Jersey as a whole; we were -- and now will be again -- the one and only recycled tissue manufacturer in the Garden State," Baron said.

The reopened plant will allow the company to once again manufacture rolls of paper in New Jersey. That product will be converted into products for sale by the Nittany Paper arm of the company. A statement called the merger "the only viable pathway to restarting operations in Elmwood Park now, and saving its brand, while leaving open future opportunities for growth or redevelopment at its site in New Jersey."

The mill was in operations for 80 years and employed 500 people when it was destroyed in January 2019, after a fire ripped through the 450,000-square-foot plant. No one was injured, but 31 of the 36 buildings at the plant were destroyed, as well as the iconic red sign visible to drivers on nearby Route 80.

It's still not entirely clear what started the fire; officials say it was exacerbated by high winds and the amount of paper there to fuel the flames. An investigation that concluded over the summer ruled out arson without naming a definitive cause.

"There is presently no indication that the fire was intentionally set. The cause of the fire cannot be determined at this time, and it will be classified as undetermined, pending further information," Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella said in a June statement.