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VIDEO: Park Slope Manhole Fire Torches Car and Prompts Building Evacuations

By  Trevor Kapp and Aidan Gardiner | February 3, 2015 9:14am | Updated on February 3, 2015 12:26pm

 The fire torched a Mazda and filled six buildings with carbon monoxide, the FDNY said.
The fire torched a Mazda and filled six buildings with carbon monoxide, the FDNY said.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

BROOKLYN — Six apartment buildings were evacuated early Tuesday when a manhole fire filled them with carbon monoxide and scorched a parked Mazda SUV — one of a spate of similar weather-related blazes, FDNY officials said.

The flames broke out underground at 400 Sixth St., near Sixth Avenue, about 4:18 a.m. and quickly spread carbon monoxide into buildings from 380 to 404 Sixth St., an FDNY spokesman said.

A neighbor on the block, Jacob Loban, 36, shot a video from his home of the large flames leaping off the Mazda. His 2-year-old son can be heard cooing in the background.

"It started as smoke under the hood and then pretty quickly, it progressed to a full-blown fire. The flames spread from the front of the car back, the windows popped, the tires popped, which was pretty loud," Loban said.

"The flames started off small but then they grew. They were maybe 4 feet above the car at one point," he added.

Firefighters woke up Ronnie Schmidt, 54, about 4:30 a.m. to check CO levels in his basement, he said.

"I looked out the window and just saw smoke," Schmidt said.

"It was dark black and there was a burning smell. A car was on fire and flames were coming from the front. Twenty minutes later, the firefighters told us to get out."


Firefighters acted quickly when they detected the toxic gas in homes near the flaming manhole, the FDNY said.

"We removed that vehicle and put the fire out," said FDNY Battalion Chief Thomas Schmitt.

"The fire unfortunately caused high carbon monoxide levels in a bank of occupancies.

"All those occupancies were evacuated. The fire is out. We're checking each occupancy for safe levels and they're being allowed to reoccupy."

No injuries were reported, the FDNY said.

The Tuesday morning fire was likely sparked by salt, spread to melt snow and ice, corroding underground wiring, which happens frequently after winter storms like the one that pummeled New York Monday, officials said.

"What it does is it eats away the insulation that prevents the different cables from touching each other. Once that's gone, you get this effect," Schmitt said.

Tuesday's fire broke out about three blocks from where another manhole exploded on Monday, injuring a man who was hit in the head by the flying cover as he walked his dog.

He was treated at Lutheran Medical Center for minor injuries, the FDNY said.

Con Ed was still investigating what sparked the first manhole explosion, but said Monday afternoon that it was also likely weather-related.

Con Ed could not immediately be reached for comment about Tuesday's Park Slope fire.

On Monday night, tenants of a Washington Heights apartment building were similarly evacuated when a manhole fire filled their homes with carbon monoxide, the Daily News reported.

And around 4:45 a.m. Tuesday, a manhole fire filled an Upper East Side basement near East 69th Street and York Avenue with carbon monoxide, the FDNY said. No injuries were reported.