NYPD warehouse fire could affect criminal cases

More than 48 hours after flames destroyed a warehouse used by the NYPD to store vehicles and evidence from investigations, officials are monitoring the scene and questions are mounting about the fire's effect on the criminal justice process.

The warehouse along on the Gowanus Canal in Red Hook is known as the Erie Basin Auto Pound. The NYPD leases the facility. 

Fox 5 News has learned that when the fire started just after 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the sprinkler system didn't work. The fire destroyed decades of biological evidence and vehicles involved in old crimes, a source said. 

The facility had been running on generators since losing power during Superstorm Sandy more than a decade ago, a source said. Contractors have been converting the facility back to on-site electric power but nothing points to that being a cause of the fire. 

The FDNY and NYPD are cooperating with an investigation into the cause of the fire. The warehouse will need to be demolished, authorities said.

"A security fence will be constructed in the coming days and a controlled demolition will begin to better ascertain the cause of the fire," the FDNY told Fox 5 News. 

In the meantime, the NYPD is looking into what exactly was destroyed.

"Moving forward, we have set up a mechanism with prosecutors and our law department where they can reach out to legal bureaus to help them determine is evidence related to a particular case was destroyed in the fire," the NYPD said in a statement. 

Former prosecutor Peter Frankel, who now works as a criminal defense attorney, said the impact on cases could be widespread.

"It could affect old cases, cases sent back on appeal, it could impact cold cases, cases that have not been resolved or solved yet where DNA is crucial," Frankel said. "And it could also impact wrongful convictions."