Fire history: New York Telephone Exchange fire

Blog Post created by maryelizabethwoodruff Employee on Mar 13, 2015

Telephone2On February 27, 1975, a fire broke out in a New York City telephone switching center, temporarily knocking out service to more than 170,000 phones in the lower east side of Manhattan.  The FDNY recently commemorated of the 40th anniversary of this incident.  The loss of telephone service was not the only problem connected with this fire: the spread of the fire and the smoke given off by the cables sheathed with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) created extensive problems for the New York City Fire Department.  Many firefighters were injured, several requiring hospitalization.


James Lathrop, NFPA Fire Analysis Specialist, traveled to New York to investigate the fire, and took the photos shown here.  The investigation was a cooperative effort between NFPA Fire Analysis department  and National Bureau of Standards.  The Preliminary Report and subsequent Fire Journal article discuss the building and the fire.


Telephone3This incident is of note, not only with respect to fire conditions and safety issues but also for the efforts to restore phone service.  Emergency phone banks and mobile communication phone vans were set up in strategic locations to provide emergency phone service and provide information to residents and businesses.  The photo to the left displays temporary phone services in use.  The AT&T video Miracle on 2nd Avenue documents the efforts to restore service after the fire. Read more about resiliency in the March/April issue of NFPA Journal.