Hundreds of holiday shoppers were evacuated from the flagship Macy's store at Herald Square on Sunday after a fire in an escalator spread smoke through the building.
The fire occurred in an escalator between the third and fourth floors, said Elina Kazan, a Macy's spokeswoman. The sirens of numerous police and fire trucks on 34th Street blared long after the fire was reported at 4 p.m. on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
The smoke was so heavy at one point that passers-by on the street could smell it.
One Macy's employee was concerned about asthma but declined to go to the hospital and was back at work when the store reopened, Kazan said. No other injuries were reported.
Outside the building, a police officer announced to prospective customers after 5 p.m. that Macy's had closed. It reopened within an hour and will remain open until midnight, Kazan said. When it reopens at 7 a.m. Monday, it will remain open 24 hours a day until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, she added.
Mary-Jo Sedenquist of Green Bay, Wis., was visiting the city on a church mission trip. She went to Macy's looking for Christmas gifts Sunday and smelled smoke as she entered the store.
About 15 minutes later, she said, smoke alarms went off and an announcement was made that an evacuation was under way.
By that time, she said, "Everything was like a white haze."
Sedenquist said she and her friends were escorted by Macy's workers down a back stairway. As a result, they never got to shop. Sedenquist said she went to a nearby store instead.
The fire occurred as retail stores in Manhattan were attempting to recover from a foot of snow that fell on the city only hours before.
"Hopefully some of those people who couldn't make it in because of the snowstorm will make it in when we're pulling all nighters," Kazan said.
Kazan said the fire did not occur within the store's wooden-stair escalators but instead occurred in one of the newer, metal models.
Macy's opened on 34th Street on Nov. 8, 1902. It is located at Herald Square — named after the now-defunct New York Herald newspaper. The square is filled with tourists, shoppers and street performers during the holiday season.
The store has 1.1 million square feet of selling space and 10 1/2 floors. It is the city's third-largest tourist attraction behind the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.
The fire was not the first faced by the store during a holiday season. On Dec. 28, 1995, a Christmas light ignited a cardboard candy cane, causing a minor fire in the children's "Santaland" department.