Up to 10 small fires broke out in Central Park Tuesday afternoon in an apparent act of arson, say two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the case, enshrouding the iconic space's tall trees in a thick, billowy white smoke.
The fires, at least six but as many as 10, appeared to have started in the North Woods, the largest of the park's three woodland landscapes and a hotspot for birdwatching and other nature activities, shortly before 2 p.m. Law enforcement sources said a person was seen setting fires in wooded areas near West 107th Street and Central Park West.
The FDNY confirmed it was working to put out "numerous brush fires" (though law enforcement sources described them as rubbish fires) in the park near 110th Street. Hotspots continued to spring up as stubborn wisps of smoke and smoldering embers refused to die down into the evening.
No injuries were reported. Patches of scorched earth, burned by fire, could be seen through northern sections of the park.
The Central Park Conservancy, which manages the park, said inspections showed no serious damage. The material burned included mulch and leaves, with some shrubbery getting charred, but no trees were damaged, the organization said.
Police, meanwhile, are looking into whether the afternoon fires could be linked to a separate fire apparently set in Central Park earlier in the morning, around 7 a.m., the law enforcement sources said.
Witnesses told police they saw a man setting a fire in the afternoon near Central Park West, the sources said, though no description was immediately made public.
Video posted to the Citizen app made it appear as if the smoke could be seen from fairly far away.
No other details were immediately available.