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
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.
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.