An enormous fire broke out in the New York City Police Department evidence warehouse in Brooklyn Tuesday.
The fire erupted at around 10:40 a.m. local time at the Erie Basin Auto Pond in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, officials said. Dozens of impounded vehicles were kept at the facility; biological evidence from decades of crimes was also stored there. The three-alarm inferno, which injured several first responders and civilians, was visible from across New York City, according to photos on social media.
“We attempted an interior fire attack, but [firefighters] were overwhelmed by the amount of fire and we had to back all of our firefighters out of the building and go to an exterior attack,” New York City Fire Chief John Hodgens said in a press conference after the fire had been controlled. “We have a third alarm assignment right now with about 150 fire and EMS personnel.”
According to Hodgens, the FDNY had deployed three fire boats to fight the fire, and were using drones to pinpoint where the boats could effectively target it. Firefighters had to retreat from inside the building after the initial response because buildings of that type have a high collapse potential; a section of the building did collapse shortly after they arrived on the scene. The large amount of combustible material made it even more unsafe inside the building.
Eight people in total were injured: three firefighters, three Emergency Medical Services personnel, and two civilians. All reported only minor injuries, Hodgens said.
Because the fire boats were doing most of the work from the outside, Hodgens said putting out the fire would take a long time. Warehouses of this type are sealed from the outside, meaning firefighters needed to wait for the fire to create openings in the building where they could engage.
“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,” he said.
Also during the press briefing, NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey said that the warehouse is home to a large amount of biological evidence from past crimes, as well as many vehicles. Some of the evidence — from incidents like burglaries and shootings — goes back decades.
A number of vehicles were also impounded at the warehouse, most of which had been seized for reasons other than traffic violations — the owner may have been arrested, or the cars were being used in investigations or legal matters, NBC 4 New York reported. Some of the vehicles there were historic, but there were also a number of e-bikes and electric ATVs, though officials did say they removed the electric batteries as a precaution against fires.
Officials said they could not estimate the total amount of damage done by the blaze. Once the fire is put out, police plan to conduct a full inventory of all the items stored at the warehouse and then a full accounting of what was lost and what can be salvaged.
The blaze was also visible from across the city. Twitter users posted photos and videos of smoke billowing out from the warehouse into the skyline; some of the photos were taken only blocks from the site, but others were taken from the Brooklyn waterfront, the Manhattan skyline, and the Statue of Liberty. One user even posted a picture from a plane landing in New York.