Fire officials say last Saturdays fire at Pier 17 – which frightened thousands of people at the South Street Seaport, on and along the East River, and in Brooklyn – was likely caused by faulty wiring. The fire started under Pier 17 and thick, black smoke billowed over the lower Manhattan skyline, eerily reminiscent of another day never forgotten.

photo: Kelly Burns via Gothamist

The pier was crowded with visitors enjoying their weekend activities – people eating, drinking and shopping along the waterfront, a wedding party taking photos before their reception, there was even an outdoor music festival in progress with hundreds of concert goers in attendance. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

The fire broke out about 4 pm, near where the schooner Clipper City docks at the end of Pier 17. Seeing the flames, the crew of New York Water Taxi’s: The Shark sprang into action spraying water from their onboard firehose until FDNY arrived on the scene.

photo: C.S. Muncy/ New York Daily News

From DNAinfo: Sean James, 40 a crew member on one of the New York Water Taxi lines, said his boat rushed in to help. “We were docking when we saw the fire, I pulled the firehose right away,” he said.

“We went right in. We were that close — I could hear the wood bubbling and cracking. It was hot over there,” he said. “We sprayed it down as much as possible before the FDNY fireboat arrived.”


photo: tugster / Will Van Dorp

The 3-alarm fire which burned about 100 foot stretch of Pier 17 was controlled quickly. Over 33 fire units and 140 fire fighters responded to extinguish the smokey blaze including 3 of NY’s newest Fireboats; Three Forty Three, Firefighter II and Bravest.

Large holes were cut in the piers thick wooden deck to direct water on to the burning underside of the pier, while marine units doused flames from the river.

photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer via Staten Island Advance

From the New York Daily News: Firefighters used chainsaws to cut about eight holes – about four feet wide by eight feet long – to access the hard-to-get-to flames, said FDNY Spokesman Jim Long. “The pier is very thick, it’s got thick, old wood,” said Battalion 1 Fire Chief John Sarrocco. “We have to cut away all the wood and get down in below.”

Heavy smoke limited visibility while the FDNY used a two-sided attack – on land and in the water – to put out the fire. “It could have been a disaster,” Long said, “Look at how many people are out here.”

photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer via the Houston Chronicle

None of the shops and restaurants along the pier were damaged by the fire and were open for business shortly after the fire was extinguished. However, a few establishments at the end of the pier are closed while fire investigators check for any structural damage.

photo: DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

Kudos to the crew of The Shark and other Pier 17 employees and waterfront crews and for their courageous actions to stay the spread of the fire until the fire department arrived on scene. And our thanks and gratitude to the FDNY for quickly putting out the awkward fire and evacuating people to safety.

By Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee

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