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.