Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thousands Evacuated After Sewage Plant Fire at Riverbank State Park, Harlem - 20th July 2011

Thousands of people were evacuated from a packed Harlem park Wednesday afternoon after an explosion triggered a roaring fire at a sewage treatment plant that spewed a 30-foot plume of fire into the air, officials said.

The ferocious four-alarm blaze, which also snarled traffic on the West Side Highway, broke out in the engine room of the city's North River Wastewater Treatment plant, at 725 W. 135th St., at 11:46 a.m., an FDNY spokesman said.

"There was heavy fire, heavy smoke," said FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Joseph Woznica. The cause of the fire, which raged for hours, was not immediately clear, but Woznica said that pressurized fuel helped spark a "30-foot plume of fire."

Riverbank State Park, which sits on top of the plant, was evacuated as a precaution, according to the New York State Parks Department. And the West Side Highway was also temporarily shut between 125th Street and 153rd Street, NY1 said.

Rachel Gordon, the regional director for the Parks Department, said that several thousand people were inside Riverbank Park at the time, including the elderly and kids going to camp.

"There was overwhelming black smoke," she said. "It was quite intense."

But workers sprang into action, combing through the park to usher everyone to safety. Read More