Eyes on the Street: Chain Reaction Car Fire on 58th Street

The blaze spread down the block and reached the First Avenue bike lane before firefighters got it under control.

Photos and video: Joe Enoch
Photos and video: Joe Enoch

Streetsblog reader and TV news producer Joe Enoch sent photos and video of a chain reaction car fire that happened this morning in front of his apartment building on 58th Street between First and Second avenues.

He writes:

The blue van caught fire and then started leaking fuel which spread down the street. I watched as one car after another literally exploded sending plumes of black noxious smoke into the air. The only reason the block is still standing is because somehow the fire department showed up within a few minutes despite the morning rush hour.


Firefighters had trouble putting out the fire — because the driver of the blue van parked too close to the nearest hydrant.

Seven cars were damaged or destroyed. Enoch wasn’t able to access his apartment as of early this afternoon, and expects to find smoke damage when he gets home from work.

“It’s easy to forget that we give up free street space to vehicles packed with gallons of incredibly dangerous flammables immediately next to where we live,” said Enoch. “Incredibly, the firefighters were only able to stop the blaze once it got to the First Avenue bike lane (no cars!!).”

Bike lanes — is there anything they can’t do?

  • Jeff

    That van looks like it’s more than 15 feet from the hydrant, which I believe is the legal distance. If it interfered with the firefighting operations it was not because it was badly parked, but because it was on fire!

  • Driver

    Maybe someone should tell Enoch that flammable and explosive gas is piped under his street and directly into his home!

  • Vooch

    until 1952 it was illegal to store ones car overnight on the street in Manhattan

  • Urbanely

    I wish the city would paint the curbs so that the exact distances are known to all. Many people try to cut it close…and maybe they do it because there seems to be minimal enforcement of hydrant parking violations in some neighborhoods.

  • Kwyjibo

    Exact same thing!

  • John Maier

    The hydrant is a bit immaterial here, since they likely wouldn’t use water to fight a petroleum fire, just like you wouldn’t throw water on an oil fire on your stove top.

  • Vooch

    instead of painting curbs, every intersection should be daylight with a 20′ long x 8′ wide bump out.

    this would make firefighters jobs much easier and elderly wouldn’t get killed trying to cross the street.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Um, how would this be relevant for a mid-block fire hydrant?

  • Vooch

    same solution

    a bump out 15′ either side of the fire hydrant.

  • BubbaJoe123

    That’s spending a huge amount of money for minimal benefit. Also prevents anybody from pulling over into the hydrant locations for pickups and dropoffs, causing more double-parking.

  • Vooch

    you convinced me – perhaps a better solution is simply to return the sidewalks to their original widths.

    therefore, on any street with a midblock fire hydrant widen sidewalk by 5 to 7 feet.

    this provides even more safety for pedestrians plus a safe place for first responders to work.

    Its a win all around.


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