The New York City Fire Department is battling a “deep-seated” three-alarm blaze on the Red Hook waterfront, and the fire is expected to keep burning for a few days.
The fire broke out in a warehouse at 700 Columbia St. just after 10:30 a.m., according to FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens. Flames quickly engulfed the building, sending black plumes of smoke into the air. Firefighters initially tried to subdue the flames from inside, but were “overwhelmed by the amount of fire,” Hodgens said, and were forced to retreat.
The warehouse stores impounded vehicles and NYPD evidence, according to police Chief of Department Jeffrey B. Maddrey.
“We have a lot of biological evidence that’s here,” Maddrey said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “We also have some e-bikes, motor vehicles, and we do have a few historic vehicles as well. We don’t know the severity of the damage that’s inside, first we have to let the fire department take care of business and put the fire out.”
About 150 firefighters and emergency medical personnel are on the scene, and the department is utilizing a drone to direct firefighting efforts — three FDNY boats are dumping enormous amounts of water on the fire. Three firefighters, three EMS responders, and two civilians have suffered minor injuries.
“This fire is probably going to go on for a few days by the time we’re able to fully extinguish it and get inside, possibly, to get to the deep-seated areas,” Hodgens said at Tuesday’s presser.
The building is “not really very sturdy” and a section of it has already collapsed, Hodgens said. There are few openings from the exterior, and the department is trying to shoot water into the building from the fire boats. As the pressure of the water wears holes into the walls of the building, they will be able to access more of the fire itself.
Some of the evidence stored inside is up to 30 years old, Maddrey said, and includes property left over from Hurricane Sandy. Once the fire has been extinguished, the fire marshal’s and the NYPD’s Arson and Explosions squad will investigate the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage.
It was not clear how the fire started, Maddrey said — independent contractors working in the building noticed the fire as they worked in the building this morning.
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Update (2:07 p.m.): This story has been updated with information from the FDNY and NYPD. This is a developing story — check back for more updates throughout the day.