Herald Square Macy's evacuated because of garbage fire

Newsday - October 10, 2006

by MARCUS FRANKLIN

NEW YORK -- Hundreds of customers were evacuated from the Macy's flagship store on Monday when a small garbage fire in an unused elevator shaft sent smoke from the basement to an office tower above the shopping mecca.

No injuries were immediately reported in the afternoon fire, which closed the store for about two hours, Emergency Medical Services Capt. Steve Cuevas said.

Employees and customers streamed out onto the streets surrounding the store, which is in Herald Square, a dense midtown Manhattan shopping district. Firefighters and police closed some nearby streets to vehicular traffic.

Employees said they saw and smelled smoke and heard an emergency announcement telling them to evacuate the seven-story store, a popular tourist destination with a 13-story office tower above it.

Women's lingerie customer Tina Kofler said she was going to pay for some items on the sixth floor when a cashier told her to get out.

"She said, 'You have to put your merchandise down because we have to evacuate,"' Kofler said.

The fire started in the basement in an old elevator shaft used as a utility storage area, fire department Capt. Robert Carroll said. The cause was under investigation.

The shaft goes to the 10th floor, within the office part of the building, and smoke rose to the 11th or 12th, leading firefighters to evacuate, Carroll said.

Scores of firefighters responded within minutes of a 4:30 p.m. call about the smoke, but employees and customers were never in danger, Macy's said.

"Macy's is extremely grateful for the quick response by (city emergency officials)," Macy's spokeswoman Elina Kazan said in a statement. "We are also extremely pleased that no one was injured."

The landmark store, which offers everything from beauty supplies and men's shoes to dinnerware and tools in a million square feet of retail space, reopened at 6:15 p.m.