Propane fire engulfs dilapidated garage in ‘The Hole’ on Brooklyn-Queens border

garage fire in The Hole East New York
Firefighters battled a smoky fire at a garage in “The Hole” on Tuesday.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

A dilapidated garage in “The Hole,” a small neighborhood on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, went up in flames on Tuesday afternoon.

The blaze started shortly before 3:30 p.m. at 482 Emerald St., according to the Fire Department. Firefighters forced their way into the building and found a pair of large propane tanks aflame, sending clouds of thick smoke into the air. 

fire in east new york the hole
The fire filled the air with thick smoke.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Local resident Ricardo Machado said he heard “several violent explosions” before the fire began. 

The FDNY’s Hazmat crew responded to the scene to safely cart out the spent tanks after the blaze was brought under control shortly before 5 p.m. The fire marshal is working to determine the cause of the blaze, and Department of Buildings records show that dozens of tanks of oxygen and acetylene — a flammable gas — were left behind. 

Squatters were present at the scene, per the FDNY, though it was not clear if they were staying inside the garage or inside a home on the same lot. 

firefighter using saw in east new york
A firefighter used a saw to cut through a metal gate during the fire. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell
HAZMAT crew in East New York
A Hazmat crew removed the propane tanks. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“I went to go park my car for a nearby doctors appointment, all I saw was thick black smoke and orange flames,” said Brittany Santiago, who lives near the scene. 

Per city records, DOB placed a Full Vacate order on the building last summer after a neighbor complained that the building was being worked on despite obvious signs of decay, including a cracked and leaning facade.

Inspectors found the exterior walls of the garage were cracked and broken, with a large hole and at least one missing window. As of October 2023, the building’s owner, John Elmore, had not moved to repair the structure, per city records, and owed a $6,250 fine. The building sits on the same lot as a small home, records show, and had previously been cited for illegal activities in a residential area after the DOB found dumpsters, a car, and construction materials being stored on the site. Brooklyn Paper was not able to contact Elmore. 

graffiti wall fire
Graffiti on a wall on the scene seemed to indicate squatters were present. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Court documents show that a man had previously sued Elmore for squatter’s rights — claiming he had resided on the property since 2006 and had established “adverse possession” by moving and removing construction materials on the land, building a fence, and storing vehicles on the lot. The suit was dismissed in 2020.