While the rest of New York basked in today’s eerily warm weather, one block on the Lower East Side was feeling a different kind of heat. Four buildings were evacuated after a manhole fire erupted on Rivington Street, between Essex and Ludlow Streets, at around 10:55 am. The fire was likely caused by the abrupt melting of last Saturday’s snow and salt, according to a Con Ed spokesperson. Con Edison and FDNY responded to the call and high levels of carbon monoxide were detected on the scene. Residents of 107, 109, 111 and 113 Rivington were evacuated, and were allowed to return shortly before 2pm.
Around lunchtime today, police officers could be seen keeping pedestrians off of the block; the area directly around Hana restaurant was roped off with emergency tape, but no one was reported ill or injured.
Manhole fires are typical after a large snowfall. The salt used for snow removal can drain into the manholes and erode wires, leading to a spark. Gas lights on fire and the salt water further acts as an electrical conductor. If enough gas ignites, the top of the manhole can be blown off.
Although Hana’s building wasn’t harmed, the restaurant will not be opening tonight.