FDNY is responding to multiple reports of manhole fires Monday morning as the melting snow and road salt from the overnight storm is wreaking havoc on the utilities system.
A call for a manhole fire at 826 Crown Street in Brooklyn came in at 9:06 a.m., the department confirmed, and firefighters resolved that at 9:18 a.m. Another report of a manhole fire at 69-02 Austin Street in Queens came in at 9:22, and firefighters were on their way to that call when the department confirmed it to Metro. More reports of manhole fires have been made through the Citizen App around the city.
The melting snow and the road salt the city uses is to blame, according to Con Edison.
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“After snow falls and it starts to melt a lot of the time salt will get into our system, which can cause manhole fires,” a ConEd spokesperson said. “Salt gets on our wires, it can corrode onto the wire and then that will allow water and salt to get into the electrical system, which is not a good mix.”
At about 9:30 a.m., there were 600 outages in Brooklyn and 540 in Queens, according to the company. Since the snow storm began around 4 p.m. Sunday, ConEd has far restored power to about 2,500 customers in New York City and Westchester Country.
The spokesperson said that with a snow storm like this, which dropped about five inches on New York City overnight, outages can occur in two ways: topped trees or snapped limbs can down wires, affecting the customers who get their utilities from those overhead wires, and then when the snow starts to melt, the salt and water gets into the system, affecting customers served by underground wires.
What to do if you see manhole fires in NYC
Along with the Monday morning manhole fires in New York City, FDNY also responded to multiple manhole fires over the weekend, when wet, wintry weather affected the utilities system on Saturday.
FDNY spokesman Jim Long is warning New Yorkers that if they see a manhole fire, they should keep their distance from it.
“It could be as little as smoke from a manhole, you can hear some popping sounds, you can see heavy smoke and flames from a manhole,” he said, “but the greatest danger is the manhole could pop or explode. It’ll go flying in the air and it’ll come down and crush you.”
Another danger from New York City manhole fires is the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. Long said residents should check their carbon monoxide detectors because sometimes if the manhole is burning in the street, the smoke and carbon monoxide can build up in the utility line that goes from the street into a building.
When the FDNY responds to manhole fires, they always check the surrounding buildings and areas with a CO2 meter, he said.
“What else people might see in their homes as an indicator of a problem in the streets is possibly flickering lights,” he added. “They can contact the authorities, which is us, FDNY, as well as call utilities and we’ll come check it out.”