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Liberty Island Evacuated as 300 Pounds of Propane Catch Fire, Posing Potentially ‘Catastrophic' Risk: FDNY

One worker suffered minor injuries in the blaze, fire officials say; thousands of tourists had to leave

What to Know

  • Liberty Island was evacuated Monday as three propane tanks caught fire near a construction site where a new museum is being built
  • One worker was hurt in the fire, but those injuries were believed to be minor, authorities said; 3,400 tourists were told to leave
  • Each of the three tanks had about 100 pounds of propane, posing a potentially catastrophic threat should one have exploded

Liberty Island was evacuated as a precaution Monday as three 100-pound propane tanks suddenly caught fire, posing a potentially catastrophic risk to thousands of tourists gathered to see the Statue of Liberty, officials said. 

One worker suffered minor injuries in the blaze, which broke out at a construction site on the island near where a new museum is being constructed. The flames were out within two hours. Officials said about 3,400 people had been on the island at the time, and "we had no choice" but to evacuate. 

Had one of the propane tanks exploded, "anybody near it, shrap metal would have been flying for quite some distance plus a tremendous ball of fire," said FDNY Manhattan Borough Commander Chief Roger Sakowich.

The worker who was hurt was doing something with the tanks at the time, though it's not clear what, Sakowich said. A cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Sakowich said any kind of spark could have ignited it. 

Liberty Island reopened by early afternoon. It was the second large-scale evacuation of the tourist hotspot in less than two months.

On the Fourth of July, the island was evacuated after a woman scaled the base of the Statue of Liberty during an "Abolish ICE" protest. She spent hours sitting on Lady Liberty's green cloak, weaving her way around corners as specialized NYPD crew tried to coax her down. Eventually, they did.

She was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and other crimes and pleaded not guilty to all the charges in Manhattan Federal Court the next day. 

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