Fire Erupts at Hudson Street Building Holding 80,000 Gallons of Diesel Fuel

By Julie Shapiro on May 19, 2010 11:13am 

The former Western Union Building, a TriBeCa landmark, stores over 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
The former Western Union Building, a TriBeCa landmark, stores over 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
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Flickr/Wallyg

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

TRIBECA — A single-alarm fire on Hudson Street Tuesday night filled an historic telecom building with smoke, but luckily did not ignite the 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel stored there.

Firefighters responded to the 60 Hudson St. address at 9:20 p.m. Tuesday and brought the fire under control shortly after 10 p.m. There were no injuries, an FDNY spokesman said.

The FDNY said they were still investigating the cause of the fire. A spokesman for the building said it started in an Ace Hardware Store that is a tenant on the first floor of the multi-use building.

Neighborhood resident Bruce Ehrmann and other residents have long raised concerns about the amount of diesel fuel stored in the former Western Union Building. The fuel is on hand to supply backup generators to keep sensitive electronic equipment for Verizon and other companies running in the event of a blackout.

“It’s something that’s always waiting to happen,” said Deborah Allen, a leader of Neighbors Against NOISE, a TriBeCa group that has researched 60 Hudson’s fire hazards.

The company that owns 60 Hudson St., First Service Williams, got a special permit from the city four years ago that allows them to store more diesel fuel than is ordinarily allowed. Under normal city guidelines, all fuel must be stored in the basement, but the building was also granted a variance to store it above ground, according to the variance. In exchange, the company agreed to make fire safety improvements in the 23-story building.

A spokesman for the building's owners would not say how close the fire came to the fuel in the basement and would also not discuss which other floors of the building are used to store the additional fuel.

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