Fire Forces the Evacuation of West 72nd Street Buildings

By Nicole Bode on August 20, 2010 2:05pm | Updated on August 21, 2010 9:47am

Firefighters respond to a transformer fire on 72nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam.
Firefighters respond to a transformer fire on 72nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

By Leslie Albrecht and Nicole Bode

DNAinfo Senior Editor

MANHATTAN — Firefighters evacuated buildings on the Upper West Side Friday afternoon after a transformer fire broke out underground, fire officials said.

There were no immediate injuries reported at 146 W. 72nd St., where fire crews responded after getting a call of smoke coming from a sewer grate or sidewalk grate in front of the building about 1:30 p.m., a department spokesman said.

Division Chief Jim Donlevy said about 75 firefighters responded, evacuating five buildings and cordoning off about a dozen others after an electrical cable shorted underground, starting a fire that smoldered underground.

The buildings, located on a busy shopping strip of West 72nd street between Columbus and Amsterdam, were evacuated as a precaution, he said.

"These things are finicky," Donlevy said. "They can calm down quickly or expand very rapidly and when they do it can be deadly."

Friday's fire appeared to be more of an inconvenience than anything else for the buildings' residents.

Carter Greendyke, 28, said the power in about half of her apartment at 144 W. 72nd St. suddenly went out about 1:30 p.m. She said that 20 minutes later, a fireman knocked on her door to tell her the building was being evacuated because of an electrical problem in the basement.

Greendyke had to wait on the street to get back into her building for over an hour and a half.

"If I had brought my laptop, I could have gotten some work done," she said.

The fire was put out shortly before 3 p.m., but FDNY were still doing checks and clean-up.

Firefighters respond to a transformer fire by evacuating 146 W. 72nd St.
Firefighters respond to a transformer fire by evacuating 146 W. 72nd St.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

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