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Another NYC Manhole Fire Wreaked Havoc, This Time In Astoria

Published On 02/06/2015 Published On 02/06/2015

If you weren't already freaked the hell out by the manhole fire explosions in NYC we reported on earlier this week, freak out now: another manhole fire caused over two dozen residents in Astoria to evacuate their apartments Friday morning in frigid temperatures when the building filled with carbon monoxide, DNAinfo reported. Um, so is it time to start chalking the threat higher up on the list of things we have to worry about as New Yorkers — up there with falling air conditioners and falling through grates on the sidewalk?

Just after 5:30am Friday, residents at 30-90 38th St. in Astoria were evacuated from their building -- when temperatures were well below freezing -- and onto an MTA bus (!) brought in as a temporary shelter, according to the DNAinfo report. Nobody was hurt, but huddling on a bus pre-sunrise doesn't sound like the most amazing way to start off your Friday. This comes after the two separate manhole explosions Monday and Tuesday in Brooklyn, one of which sent a man to the hospital after the fiery explosion was so powerful that it flung a manhole cover at his head and injured a woman when the blast shattered her apartment windows. During the Monday manhole mayhem, a car was consumed by the fire. 

Turns out, though, that manhole fires happen all the time, but most don't cause the chaos seen this week. FDNY Press Officer Elisheva Zakheim told Thrillist that in January of this year, fire officials in the city have seen under 1,000 manhole fires, compared with "well over a thousand" of these fires in January 2014. "They have a lot to do with inclement weather, and there are more manhole fires in the winter than there are in the summer," she said. "Depending on how harsh the winter is, we'll see more or less manhole fires."

Not exactly comforting.

A recent report by CBS News explains the fires are often caused by melted snow, ice, and the salt seeping into the electrical equipment in the manholes and ultimately igniting gases trapped below. At least 300 manhole fires have occurred in the city already this February, according to the report. That's lovely. Just lovely, especially seeing as manholes are EVERYWHERE. 

Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and luckily hasn't ever seen a manhole fire -- just the ones that stream at night, which is also a little unsettling, right? Follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick

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