Fire on Liberty Island forces evacuation, officials say

A propane tank fire on Liberty Island prompted the evacuation of 3,400 people on Monday, officials said. Photo Credit: Jason Andrew

The fire was located in a construction area on the north side of the island, officials said.

A propane tank fire on Liberty Island prompted the evacuation of 3,400 people on Monday, officials said.
A propane tank fire on Liberty Island prompted the evacuation of 3,400 people on Monday, officials said. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Vivien Killilea

The city evacuated 3,400 people from Liberty Island on Monday due to a fire involving three propane tanks, officials said.

The fire broke out just before noon in a construction area on the north side of the island, about 200 feet away from the base of the Statue of Liberty, according to FDNY Manhattan Borough Commander Roger Sakowich and National Park Service spokesman Jerry Willis.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference in Battery Park, Sakowich said the propane tanks were each 100 pounds. One of the tanks was on fire and another had been knocked to the ground and was leaking, creating a “very dangerous situation” that could have been “catastrophic,” he added.

“We had no choice,” Sakowich said of the decision to evacuate. “Anybody near it — shrapnel would have been flying for quite some distance, plus [there’s a] tremendous ball of fire when a propane tank does explode like that.”

One construction worker suffered a minor injury in the fire and was treated on the scene, Willis said. The evacuees were taken to Ellis Island, Battery Park and Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

The FDNY sent about 50 firefighters to Liberty Island, with another 50 standing by. Five FDNY boats also responded and used seawater to bring the blaze under control in about two hours, Sakowich said.

“It does not appear that anything else was damaged,” Willis said.

Liberty Island was reopened to the public around 2 p.m. “We appreciate the cooperation of all team members, first responders and our visitors,” the National Park Service tweeted.

There’s no word yet on the cause of the fire, but Willis said it appeared to be a “construction mishap.” Sakowich said the FDNY’s investigation was ongoing.

The city Office of Emergency Management warned of traffic congestion near Battery Park and Pier 11 in Manhattan due to the emergency response and evacuation.

A new Statue of Liberty Museum is being built near where the fire broke out on Monday. The museum is expected to open next year.

With Ivan Pereira and Vincent Barone

Lauren Cook