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Manhole Fire Causes Street Closures on Second Avenue

By Jill Colvin | February 11, 2013 10:30am | Updated on February 11, 2013 12:15pm

UPPER EAST SIDE — A manhole fire on Second Avenue forced authorities to close two blocks during rush hour Monday morning, officials said.

The fire within the manhole, on the southwest corner of East 81st Street and Second Avenue, broke out about 9:15 a.m., the FDNY said.

Black smoke billowed from the manhole as firefighters raced to the scene. The gurgling manhole sounded like a deep, amplified underground popcorn maker, one witness said.

They blocked off Second Avenue from East 80th to East 82nd streets, officials said.

No one was injured, they added.

Solomon Eljashev, 44, was on his way to drop his daughter off at school around 8:45 a.m., when he first saw the smoke from the manhole.

When he returned to the intersection about 15 minutes later, the fire had intensified,
with several violent explosions and 3-feet high blue flames.

"It shot the manhole cover 3-feet up and flipped it," said Eljashev, who called 911. 

A number of manhole fires were reported over the weekend after Winter Storm Nemo hit the city. Fire officials said fires are sparked when salt, mixed with melted snow, gets into underground electrical equipment and corrodes the protective layer around the wires, causing them to smoke or begin shooting flames.