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Macy's Herald Square Briefly Evacuated as Firefighters Battled Blaze

By DNAinfo Staff on April 4, 2012 3:53pm  | Updated on April 4, 2012 5:55pm

Officials believe the fire may have started in the department store's window display.
Officials believe the fire may have started in the department store's window display.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

By Ben Fractenberg and Wil Cruz

DNAinfo Staff

MIDTOWN — Macy's Herald Square was evacuated Wednesday afternoon after a fire erupted in the basement of the department store, sending more than 1,000 terrified shoppers spilling on to West 34th Street, officials and witnesses said.

Investigators were trying to determine if a cigarette flicked at the caulking of one of the store's iconic window displays sparked the blaze at the store on West 34th Street at 3:15 p.m.

Fire officials said the fire erupted in the basement and quickly spread through a service pipe before igniting a display window on the ground floor, where the spring flower show was featured, fire officials said.

No one was injured, said FDNY Manhattan Borough Commander James Esposito.

"We're very fortunate it did not travel horizontally," he said at a briefing. "But Macy's is very, very crowded, especially on such a beautiful day."

Esposito said more than 1,000 people had to be evacuated from the department store.

"I was just eating lunch and then they called for an evacuation," said Susan Norris, 43, of Pennsylvania.

"The alarm sounded and then it was slow [getting out]," Norris, who was with her two daughters, ages 14 and 11, added. "But it was orderly."

The fire was under control a short time later, Esposito said.

The massive evacuation forced the temporary shutdown of West 34th St. between Broadway and Seventh Avenue. The lanes were reopened sometime after 4:30 p.m.

Shoppers were allowed back into Macy's about two hours later.