Massive fire breaks out at NYPD impound, evidence warehouse in Brooklyn

NYPD said cold-case evidence stored at the warehouse goes back years but the magnitude of what was destroyed is not yet known

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Wednesday, December 14, 2022
8 hurt as massive fire destroys NYPD evidence warehouse
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A massive fire broke out at an NYPD impound and evidence storage warehouse in Brooklyn on Tuesday morning, leaving several people injured and some evidence destroyed. Josh Einiger has the latest details.

RED HOOK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A massive fire broke out at an NYPD impound and evidence storage warehouse in Brooklyn on Tuesday morning, leaving several people injured and some evidence destroyed.

The fire appears to have started at an 8,000 square-foot warehouse on Columbia Street that is part of the Erie Basin Marine Pound.

There were 15 NYPD employees on the property at the time the fire broke out, but they all escaped.

Plumes of thick, black smoke billowed into the sky as scores of firefighters poured water on the warehouse from every direction.

At one point, an explosion triggered a partial collapse of the building and units were forced to back out.

As crews use drones and boats to work to put out the fire, officials say it's possible it could still burn for days before it's fully extinguished.

Officials with the FDNY said at least eight people were injured, but they were all believed to be minor injuries. That included three firefighters, three with EMS and two civilians.

The severity of the damage to the warehouse is not yet known, but once it is safe, investigators will determine the cause of the fire and survey the extent of the damage.

NYPD officials said cold-case evidence stored at the warehouse goes back years but the magnitude of what was destroyed is not yet known.

That could include evidence of what the department considers a historic nature, more than 10 years old, from cases that have already been adjudicated. Problems could arise if any of those cases are appealed in the future.

"DNA, things from past crimes, burglaries, you know, maybe shooting incidents, we have some biological evidence as well," said NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey.

Authorities emphasized that rape kit evidence is stored elsewhere and was not lost in the fire.

Other evidence includes historic vehicles, including those of officers killed in the line of duty, that are traditionally brought out during the annual ceremonies.

The building is one of five warehouses where the NYPD stores vehicles that are confiscated. They also use the warehouse to store evidence that is too large to fit in normal storage areas.

Some of the vehicles being stored in the warehouse include ATVs and electric bikes, but the NYPD takes special precautions to detach the lithium-ion batteries so they don't catch fire. The NYPD hosted a demolition of ATVs and dirt bikes at the location back in 2016.

There are also thousands of NYPD vehicles parked on the connecting pier.

"It's a very serious and damaging fire," Maddrey said. "We won't really know the magnitude of what was destroyed in there until we have an opportunity to look at the invoice and see what was in there and then see what we can salvage and then we'll go from there."

As with the 2012 damage from Sandy, investigators will learn of evidentiary issues on a case by case basis as they come up.

But they said there is nothing from current or pending criminal cases, with the exception the seized vehicles believed to have been stored there.

"We expect the NYPD and district attorneys to provide us a full accounting of the evidence that was damaged and to immediately inform defense counsel about individual cases that may have been impacted," Redmond Haskins of the Legal Aid Society said in a statement.

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