My greatest irrational fear as a life-long New Yorker is getting stuck in one of the city’s vehicular tunnels during a fire. This might be the plot of Daylight, a 1996 disaster film starring Sylvester Stallone, but tunnel fires do occur in the real world. Three years after the film’s release, 39 people were killed when a truck caught fire in the tunnel beneath Mont Blanc between Italy and France. While Daylight’s tunnel scenes were filmed on a studio set in Rome, the film is primarily set in the Holland Tunnel. Unfortunately, this tunnel is no stranger to notable incidents.
A sedan caught fire in the Manhattan-bound side of the Holland Tunnel around 9 p.m. Sunday night, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Video streamed to Citizen, a smartphone app, shows the car already engulfed in flames inside the 1.6-mile tunnel. The tunnel connects New York City with New Jersey underneath the Hudson River. Port Authority Police had stopped drivers from attempting to go around the blaze straight into a wall of smoke. The video concludes with an emergency vehicle arriving on the scene from the tunnel’s Manhattan end. It is unclear why the sedan caught fire.
The Holland Tunnel was the first mechanically ventilated tunnel in the world. Before its official opening in November 1927, the ventilation system was tested by a car purposely set alight inside the tunnel. The system successfully dissipated the fire within three and a half minutes.
Since then, the tunnel’s ventilation system has been continuously updated and was last modernized in the 2000s. You can see the ventilation system in action in the car fire video as smoke is contained mainly to the area around the car.
The tunnel was only closed for about an hour before authorities reopened it to traffic, but closed an hour later to complete vital overnight repairs. Those repairs are in addition to the tunnel’s scheduled storm resiliency improvements and repairs after Hurricane Sandy flooded the tunnel in 2012.