A dramatic incident unfolded at a Manhattan courthouse on Wednesday afternoon, leading to the evacuation of three floors and minor injuries to 17 individuals.
The courthouse, which is currently hosting the civil fraud trial of former President Donald Trump, was the site of a small fire caused by an individual who set papers ablaze and then extinguished them.
The scene began to unravel around 4:15 pm on December 13th, 2023, when an individual ignited some papers on the fourth floor of the courthouse at 60 Centre Street. In an abrupt turn of events, the same person quickly extinguished the fire using a fire extinguisher. This action, however, led to the release of fumes that irritated those present.
As a result of the incident, three floors of the courthouse were promptly evacuated. The fire department, FDNY, arrived at the scene following reports of a suspicious odor emanating from the discharged fire extinguisher.
According to official statements:
"Preliminary information indicates that at approximately 4:15 pm today, an individual depressed a fire-extinguisher on the fourth floor at 60 Centre Street to douse a fire he had set to papers."
The aftermath of the fire and subsequent use of the fire extinguisher resulted in minor injuries to 17 people. Most of these injuries were due to irritation from the fumes of the extinguisher. Among those affected, two individuals – a sergeant and a court officer – were transported to the hospital but were released the same day.
The remaining 14 court officers, who also suffered minor injuries, refused medical attention at the scene. This incident highlights the unforeseen risks that can occur in public buildings, even under seemingly controlled conditions.
An attorney present during the ordeal, Marcy Katz of Pryor Cashman LLP, recounted the chaotic scene. She said, "I heard screaming and smelled smoke before a court officer instructed everyone to rush down the stairs and out of the building."
The New York Fire Department responded swiftly to the situation, ensuring that no serious injuries occurred. Their prompt action helped in controlling the situation and preventing it from escalating further.
The individual responsible for starting the fire was taken into custody. The incident remains under thorough investigation, with the authorities seeking to understand the motives behind this unusual act.
"The New York Fire Department responded. Three floors of the courthouse were evacuated. There are no serious injuries reported. The incident is being investigated, and the individual is in custody," stated the authorities.
The incident has sparked a range of reactions from the local community, legal professionals, and the public. While some expressed shock and concern over the safety protocols, others praised the quick response of the courthouse staff and FDNY.
This event has also triggered discussions about the safety measures in place at such crucial public buildings and the need for regular reviews and updates to these protocols. The community's focus remains on ensuring the safety and security of all those who visit or work in such establishments.
The courthouse, which is a symbol of justice and order, was momentarily shaken by this unexpected event but stands resilient as a testament to the strength and preparedness of New York's public institutions.