A Brooklyn warehouse storing healthcare records went up in flames Saturday, despite the efforts of firefighters who fought the stubborn blaze in freezing temperatures.
Smoke billowed from the fire throughout the day and firefighters said it would likely be weeks before they could declare the scene safe.
"The building is a total loss," Chief of Department James Leonard said after firefighters had been fighting the blaze for more than eight hours but had yet to get it under control.
The amount of paper records in the warehouse on North 11th Street in Williamsburg, paired with windy conditions that effectively fanned the flames, made the seven-alarm fire exceptionally difficult to fight, he said.
Images of Brooklyn Warehouse Blaze
Firefighters believed they had the blaze contained by Saturday afternoon, but an extensive and ongoing operation would be needed to assure the flames did not impact nearby structures, Leonard said.
"This is going to smolder for quite some time," he said. “We’re probably here two to three weeks.”
One minor injury was reported. A civilian outside the structure suffered from smoke inhalation.
Fire officials were initially called to the warehouse at around 4:30 a.m., and a small fire at the location was declared under control about 40 minutes later, the FDNY said. But at 6:30 a.m., they were called back and found a far more serious fire underway - one extensive enough that firefighters were unable to enter the facility and instead began battling the blaze from outside.
By the afternoon, at least 24,000 gallons of water were being sprayed onto the building every minute and the blaze was declared a seven-alarm fire, meaning some 275 firefighters and emergency medical responders were called to the scene.
The cause of both fires was under investigation, Leonard said.
High winds and freezing temperatures created brutal conditions for firefighters, some of whom were getting doused with water while standing frigid winds. Some firefighters were covered with icicles.
The warehouse, operated by CitiStorage, primarily stored records for more than 100 healthcare organizations and law firms, according to Recall Holdings, the parent company of CitiStorage.
"First and foremost, Recall is relieved that no major injuries have been reported as a result of the fire at our Information Center in Brooklyn," company senior vice president Ron McMurtrie said in a news release.
He said the company will investigate the incident and report the status of records to its clients.
New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, one of the warehouse customers, keeps duplicates of vital patient records in electronic form, said spokesman Ian Michaels in a news release.. "We do not anticipate that this will affect our operations," he said.