Why Brooklyn’s Recent Warehouse Fire Could Have Been Much Worse

A major seven-alarm warehouse fire in Brooklyn that ignited Saturday, Jan. 31 and took nearly a week to fully extinguish has prompted concerns from nearby residents about the fire’s effects on air quality and public health.

According to NBC New York, the North 11th Street building, which primarily stored public records for several New York City agencies like the Health Department and the Health and Hospitals Corporation, required 275 firefighting and emergency personnel working in freezing conditions to put out the fire.

The warehouse’s paper records, which were not stored in fire-proof containers, only served as extra fuel for the fire, making it especially difficult to extinguish.

“At Solus Group, we use fireproof filing cabinets to protect all important documents. The piece of mind is worth every penny,” states Jennifer Taylor, marketing manager for the online battery handling and equipment provider.

Luckily, the damage sustained during this fire could have been much more devastating than it was. There were no fatalities, and just one minor injury related to smoke inhalation has been reported.

New York City officials have declared the air near the warehouse safe for breathing. Sore throat and headache are both normal symptoms of smoke exposure, officials said, and both symptoms will go away without requiring medical treatment.

Nor is the damage done to the warehouse’s paper records as extensive as it could have been. The New York Times reports that the fire’s damage to public records was ultimately less than initially feared. Approximately 143,000 of the 700,000 boxes stored by the Health and Hospitals Corporation were damaged in the fire. Since public health records were made electronic several years ago, it’s likely these lost files will have little impact on patients.

Considering the scale of this warehouse fire, it’s clear that the fire’s outcome could have been much worse than it was — and Brooklyn’s residents got very lucky.

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