Warning from FDNY: Manhole Fires

Manhole fires.



We already have had three in Brooklyn since last weekend's blizzard. They are a chronic problem in NYC, flaring up after a snowstorm or a rain.


What causes them and what are the warning signs?

You know all that salt that NYC and landlords throw down to make roads and sidewalks *safe*? Well it mixes with themelting snow that frequently drains into manholes causing corrosion to the electrical components in the hole.

The elecrical wires get shorted out and a fire errupts.

Not only is the manhole fire dangerous in itself, but the burning wires produce toxic fumes. One of the most dangerous side effects is from the Carbon Monoxide as there is incompete combusion happening as there is limited oxygen in the manhole.


FDNY is very alert to all fires, but these in particular, as Carbon Monoxide is colorless, odorless, and quite toxic. It rapidly enters basement apartments adjacent to the burning manhole. Likewise, the fire can travel to these apartments.

We already know not to walk on manhole covers as they may be "electrified" because of a similar shorting mechanism. But as we avoid walking on a manhole cover, we need to be cognizant of the warning signs of an impending manhole fire and immediately report it.

The warning signs of a manhole fire are simple:

  • Smoke issuing around and through the cover

  • Popping sounds from the manhole

  • Odor of electrical burning

Call 911 and keep anyone in the area away until the fire department arrives.

Be alert and keep yourself and your pup safe.

And say a "thank you" in your heart to the first responders in the FDNY who keep us from harm.

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