LIBERTY ISLAND, New York (WABC) — A construction mishap sparked a propane fire on Liberty Island on Monday afternoon forcing thousands of tourists to evacuate the Statue of Liberty and the island itself, National Parks Service said.
The accident involved three 100-pound propane tanks where a new museum is being built.
The fire, which broke out shortly before noon, reached two alarms. The evacuations led to long lines of tourists trying to board ferries.
Ferries carrying tourists to the island were halted until mid-afternoon.
“I saw it burn, just ran,” one witness said. “It popped, and we just started running. And they started blocking the section.”
FDNY Manhattan Borough Commander Roger Sakowich said the fire created a very dangerous situation.
“With that much propane, a BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion), which would have been one of the tanks exploding, could have been catastrophic,” he said. “Anybody near it, shrap-metal would have been flying for quite some distance, plus a tremendous ball of fire when a propane tank does explode like that. So we took the precaution to evacuate 3,400 civilians from the island.”
One construction worker was treated on scene for minor burns. No other injuries were reported.
The FDNY said the flames were extinguished around 12:45 p.m., but crews continued to hose the propane tanks to cool them until the situation was declared under control around 1:30 p.m.
Crews used sea water from five boats in the river to battle the fire.