All Clear After East Side Fire Forced Evacuations

Friday, Jul 29, 2011  |  Updated 8:21 PM EDT
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Crews battled sparks and flames.

Crews battled sparks and flames.

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Raw Video: East Side Fire

Chopper footage captures the trench fire that broke up this afternoon on 59th street.
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Seven buildings on Manhattan's East Side were evacuated this afternoon as firefighters battled a blaze at a construction site.

As of 5:45 p.m. Friday evening, firefighters declared all clear and allowed residents and business owners to return to their buildings on East 59th Street near First Avenue. The buildings were evacuated as a precaution because of a nearby gas line.

Con Edison shut down gas in the area as dozens of fire units responded to the fire.  Fire officials said the blaze began in a trench in a construction site.  There have been no injuries reported.

The fire was called in about 2:15 p.m. Friday.  Fire officials said the blaze began in a construction site where workers were installing a new water main.  In order to install the main, contractors working for the Department of Environmental Protection had to move some Con Edison infrastructure including electrical cables,FDNY Fire Chief Thomas McKavanagh said.

McKavanagh said a short circuit ignited electrical insulation. The fire began burning toward a low-pressure gas line running under the street.

Firefighters cleared 12 people from apartment buildings and stores. Most people were away at work at the time.

Utility workers shut off the gas line and allowed the gas to safely bleed away. Firefighters extinguished the smoldering insulation.

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