Fire at South Street Seaport in NYC

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/fire-breaks-manhattan-south-street-seaport-article-1.1114680
Ouch. That's going to leave a mark! The article quotes some guy as saying the pier was tough to get at as it is "thick, old wood". Kinda, sorta, but no. I was one of the assistant project managers for the construction manager when South Street Seaport was going up in the early 80's and was involved with the pier's wooden deck construction. So the wood is old, as in the tree was old, but the lumber wasn't exactly ancient.
The wood that was selected for the deck on top of the concrete pier was Bongossi, an African hardwood with some very exceptional properties. It is extremely hard, extremely durable, extremely resistant to rot, and almost a fireproof wood, which were the main reasons it was chosen for use at the Seaport. http://www.interwood.it/inglese/azobe.php
I think I still have one of the original samples of the wood that was submitted for testing and architectural approval in the garage somewhere. At the time I found it rather hard to believe that a wood could be that resistant to catching fire, but after holding a lighter flame against it for minutes at a time with little apparent effect, I had to admit the stuff really didn't burn readily. Of course my simple test was done on a piece of relatively freshly cut wood, and not a piece that had been exposed for a few decades, but there is little doubt that Bongossi is a very special wood indeed. Once the decision was made to have a wooden pier deck, Bongossi was about the only real choice.
For that wood to have caught fire there must have been a concealed fire burning for some time. A lit cigarette by itself would not have done it. I can only hazard a guess that maybe a cigarette ignited some debris that was between the deck and the concrete pier, and that the fire must have smouldered for a while before the deck went up in flames. I'm just glad no one was hurt.
R
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RicodJour wrote:

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/fire-breaks-manhattan-south-street-seaport-article-1.1114680
Thanks for the heads-up, hope you'll let us know as details of the cause become available. Weird that it became so fierce before being extinguished, usually hard woods are slow burning with good energy, like in wood stoves, oak/maple/ironwood gets an easy 12 hours. Ken
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Ken S. Tucker wrote:

Bongossi makes oak look like balsa wood in almost every category. Bongossi is like the Chuck Norris of hardwoods. Don't let Bongossi hear you mouthing off about it and comparing it to cheap imitations, like Steven Seagal or maple, or it'll roundhouse kick your head into the next millennium.
R
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RicodJour wrote:

Yeah sounds like Bongo wood is nearly as tough as ironwood. I only use carbide tipped circular saws on ironwood. Ken
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The fire was started by some faulty wiring. Luckily I wasn't responsible for the mechanical and electrical stuff. ;)
The Pier 17 deck was installed with driven pins since you couldn't drive nails into it. They'd pre-drill holes at an angle and bang home the pins. I rode my bike by there last summer and the deck had weathered a little, but it still looked pretty good thirty years later.
R
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On Sunday, July 15, 2012 1:08:46 AM UTC-3, RicodJour wrote:

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/fire-breaks-manhattan-south-street-seaport-article-1.1114680
This wood sounds almost like a too-good-to-be-true wood-- tough, solid, flexible, resisting shipworm, fire, rot, etc.. Speaking of which, it appears to be threatened by habitat loss! I guess that's the catch.
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