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FDNY: Lithium battery caused 5-alarm fire that disrupted LIRR service

The Long Island Rail Road suspended service in

The Long Island Rail Road suspended service in both directions on four branches on Friday, March 16, 2018, due to a large fire at a recycling plant near LIRR tracks in Jamaica, Queens. Credit: Howard Schnapp

An improperly disposed lithium battery was to blame for the five-alarm fire in Jamaica, Queens, that brought four branches of the Long Island Rail Road to a halt Friday afternoon.

New York City Fire Department marshals identified the battery as the source of the outdoor blaze at the recycling plant at 187-40 Jamaica Ave., which began before 1 p.m. Friday and was stoked by strong winds into Saturday, firefighter Chris Berke said Saturday.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday, Berke said. Some remained on scene Saturday afternoon “as debris was removed as a precautionary measure,” he said.

One firefighter sustained a minor injury, he said.

As many as 200 firefighters in dozens of engines and trucks had responded to the chaotic scene, where they found “large amounts of accumulated storage of newspapers, cardboard materials, some stacked 10-15 ft. high,” according to an FDNY Twitter post Friday.

The fire sent thick black smoke curling over adjacent Long Island Rail Road tracks east of the busy Jamaica station hub. The LIRR suspended service on the Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma, Oyster Bay and Hempstead lines in response, making for a slow and crowded evening commute.

The lines resumed normal service later Friday evening, according to an LIRR Twitter post.

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