An explosion rocked an oil storage facility at the edge of Staten Island, sending black smoke and flames hundreds of feet into the air.
Authorities said there was no indication of terrorism.
"We have a preliminary report that a tanker was transferring a product or was being fueled and somehow ignited," Fire Department Chief William Van Wart said.
Fire officials said gasoline burned on water and on land at the edge of the ExxonMobil storage facility. Most of the fire had burned out after about an hour, and spokesman Michael Loughran said it appeared that none of the dozens of oil tanks had burned.
One person was reported injured and two unaccounted for, a federal government official said on condition of anonymity.
Police spokesman Michael O'Looney said the incident appeared to be an accident, and FBI (news - web sites) spokesman Steve Kodak in Newark, N.J., said there was no indication of terrorism. However, FBI officials in Washington said they were still examining it because a refinery is the type of infrastructure terrorists might target.
The Department of Homeland Security "is closely monitoring the situation with local state authorities and other federal agencies as well as assisting in the coordination of the response," said department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.
The explosion, which could be heard several miles away, occurred at the edge of Port Mobile, near the Outerbridge Crossing that links the island to Perth Amboy, N.J., in the southwestern part of Staten Island.
It was reported shortly after 10 a.m., according to a spokeswoman for the New York Fire Department.
City officials said residents were not in immediate danger.
"At this point, people should not take any special precautions. It's unlikely this could spread to a residential area," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said shortly after the fire was reported.
Jennifer Wall, 28, videotaped the smoke as it floated over her home.
"I thought it was a terrorist attack," Wall said. "It was like thunder, but 20 times more vibrations. It shook the house."