Fire at Pier 17 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 a tree is old, but 30 years ain'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:

<snip> -------------------------------- Looks like the fire was limited to the pier and no windjammers were involved.
Are the windjammers tied up at a different set of piers?
Lew
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Next pier to the south and the wind appeared to be blowing to the NW. Whew!
R
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On Sat, 14 Jul 2012 20:54:33 -0700 (PDT), RicodJour

Lots of smoke too. I have to wonder if there was other flammables burning, oil soaked wood or oil under it. No telling what may have accumulated over 30 years.
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You can be sure that now they're going to have to find out what's under there. As I recall there's really no access or room to speak of, so they're going to have to do some remote camera thing to see.
R
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