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Manhole Fire Scorches Two Parked Cars, Witnesses Say

By  Trevor Kapp and Aidan Gardiner | April 28, 2014 9:14am 

 Flames poured out of manholes on West 81st Street and scorched two parked cars there, witnesses said.
Flames poured out of manholes on West 81st Street and scorched two parked cars there, witnesses said.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

UPPER WEST SIDE — Two parked cars were badly burned when flames erupted from a pair of manhole covers early Monday morning, witnesses and officials said.

The Volkswagen GTI and Lexus GS 350 had been parked on West 81st Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues overnight when a faulty cable that may have been corroded by salt ignited a fire that shot out of the ground and engulfed the cars' hoods about 3 a.m., witnesses and officials said.

"The fire was coming from the hoods like crazy. The flames were like a foot high. They were bright orange," said Lorenzo Acevedo, 37, a superintendent for 158 West 81st St., which is across the street from where the fire broke out.

"It was scary. Everything in my apartment was rattling. It was shaking. The lights were flashing. I didn't know what was going on," Acevedo said.

Firefighters brought the flames under control at 3:23 a.m. and no injuries were reported, the FDNY said.

The couple that owns the Volkswagen heard the boom and went to the scene to find their car ablaze.

"It was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We parked here Saturday afternoon and didn't move it yesterday," said Nori Akashi, 40, who works in public relations.

"It's sad. It was really a freak accident," said her husband, George Bastuba, a 50-year-old IT worker.

"It was a car I used every day. I drive to work because I work in the suburbs. I don't know what I'll do now," he added.

Con Edison crews on the scene said the fire may have been caused by faulty underground wiring that had been corroded by salt. The FDNY said its fire marshals were still investigating.

The blaze also sent carbon monoxide leaking into a nearby basement, but firefighters ventilated it and no tenants were harmed, an FDNY spokesman said. The address of the affected building was not released.