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Fire at 1 World Trade Center: maybe yes, maybe no. Confused?

The New York Fire Department and the owner of 1 World Trade Center give conflicting accounts of a report of fire Wednesday at the building, which is under construction at the site of the 9/11 attacks.

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Firefighters wait for instructions near 1 World Trade Center in New York, August 8. Scores of firefighters rushed to 1 World Trade Center early on Wednesday for what turned out to be a possible welding mishap on the 88th floor, the New York City Fire Department said.

Andrew Burton/Reuters

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After 90 firefighters showed up at 1 World Trade Center early Wednesday, reports circulated of a fire on the 88th floor. In flash, camera crews arrived at the site of the 9/11 attacks. Journalists started writing stories that quickly got picked up by Google News and other news aggregators.

The only problem: There was no fire, at least according to the owner of the building, which was topped off on at an informal ceremony last Thursday when a steel beam signed by President Obama was erected on the 104th floor. 

“The FDNY searched the building and found nothing,” says Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and is developing the site. “My construction guys are telling me there never was any fire.”

So, why did 90 New York City firefighters show up at the site?

“I guess there was a report,” says Mr. Coleman, “but they checked it out and they found no fire.”

Well, not quite, says the New York Fire Department press office.

FDNY says it received a call about a fire at 7:42 a.m.

“There seemed to be a fire in the welding operation,” says a spokesman for the department. The first was under control by 8:38 a.m., the department says. 

Told that the Port Authority denies there ever was a fire, the press officer replied, “Wait for the fire marshall to investigate. It is definitely under investigation – call back later.”

Coleman was not available for a followup. He was in a meeting with Port Authority officials, trying to figure out what happened.

After construction of the building is complete in 2014, the tower will reach 1,776 feet, counting the antenna on the roof. The building, which was once called the Freedom Tower, is still being leased out to future occupants. Conde Nast, the publisher, will be a major tenant, leasing more than 1 million square feet of space.

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