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Fire Breaks Out On Chelsea Market Rooftop

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A fire sent smoke billowing from the top of the popular Chelsea market Tuesday, filling the air over the neighborhood.

One person was injured in the blaze.

As CBS2's Ali Bauman reported, about 300 customers and workers were evacuated from the building, at 15th Street and Ninth Avenue, after the fire started in a rooftop cooling tower around noon Tuesday.

The FDNY said the cooling tower would normally be filled with water, but was empty when it caught fire.

"Up on the roof, we have five cooling towers. They were in the process of being serviced, disinfected and drained," said FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Michael Gala. "Had there been water in that cooling tower at the time, you know, we might not have had as much fire."

Photos and video posted to social media showed the thick black smoke.

More than 250 people had to be evacuated from the popular food market that also houses several businesses – creating a chaotic cluster of disappointed tourists and displaced employees walking down the stairwells and out onto the sidewalks.

"It was so crowded and you know, we were just trying to stay out of the way, because firemen were walking back and forth," said tourist Hillary Eichelberger of Texas.

"Once we got outside, the sidewalks all jammed up as you can probably see around here, so we're just awaiting word on when we can go back at this point," said employee Joe Kelleher.

As firefighters worked to get the flames under control during the lunchtime rush, foodies had to go without.

"We were eating lunch at a crêpe shop all the way at the end," said tourist Suzanne Fleming. "We thought it'd be exciting, and it was more exciting than we bargained for."

Because of the evacuation the typically crowded counters at Chelsea Market fell empty. Employees at one café estimated that two thirds of the business for the day was cut.

"We have lines out the door for like two hours normally, but today, lunch is over, and as you can see, it's dead," said café employee John Yoon.

Spectrum News NY1 also had to evacuate its offices in the building, the cable news channel said via Twitter.

Authorities said one person was taken to the hospital, treated for smoke inhalation, and was expected to be recover. Late Tuesday afternoon, the building was back open to employees, tourists, and food lovers.

Firefighters said the building sustained some minor water damage.

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