NYU engineering school evacuated after rooftop machinery malfunctions

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Black Friday: A heating unit located on the roof of New York University’s Metrotech campus billows thick plumes of smoke Friday afternoon.
Rooftop barbecue: Sixty-five firefighters rushed to the roof to assist in stemming the geyser of black smoke, quickly bringing it under control.
Smoke break: Students piled out of the school after a fire alarm rang out around 2 pm.
Safe and sound: Many students were happy for the unexpected study break.

A rooftop heating unit at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering caught fire and began bellowing out clouds of black smoke on Friday afternoon, forcing the college to evacuate students and faculty from the Downtown campus.

There were no injuries as a result of what firefighters described as “more of a malfunction” than a raging inferno, but the irony of a broken machine hobbling a building full of tech geniuses was, of course, not lost on the whiz kids.

“That’s always a classic thing here,” said Brooklyn Heights junior Alex Lawson. “We’re a school full of engineers and everything goes wrong engineering-wise. It’s no help that we’re all learning science.”

Reporters with Brooklyn Paper’s New York University Rooftop Action News Bureau — which also broke the 2012 story of a leaking water tower located on the same roof — spotted smoke from their 10th-floor vantage at the newspaper’s Metrotech office at around 1:50 pm.

The fire broke out during demolition work on the roof, according to a school spokeswoman.

School staff were spotted attempting to combat unseen flames using handheld fire extinguishers, but their efforts only seemed to illicit larger plumes of smoke from the rooftop heating unit.

Firefighters were called to the scene at 1:53 pm, and 65 of New York’s Bravest responded to the emergency, which was declared under control at around 2:30 pm, a spokesman for the Fire Department said.

Amid the drama, a fire alarm sent students streaming out of the building shortly after 2 pm, and some scholars were happy for a chance to skip class.

“I got here and I was like ‘yes, excuse,’” said senior Luis Valdez, who travels from his home on the distant isle of Manhattan for a quality Kings County education.

But others weren’t so thrilled about the study break, which interrupted their Zen-like focus on crucial tests.

“I was in the middle of a test and I wanted to keep taking the test because I was like, ‘Oh I’m good at this and now I have to leave,’” said Brooklyn Heights junior Gio Abou Jaoude.

— with Lauren Gill

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated with info from NYU Tandon.
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