NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A fire erupted at a crowded South Street Seaport on Saturday. Incredibly, no one was hurt. And fire officials said that faulty wiring is to blame.
“I thought it was a big cloud of fog, and then you realized what was actually happening,” Andrew Shane told CBS 2’s Don Dahler. “You really couldn’t see the bridge.”
Shane was among the hundreds of people chased off Pier 17 by fire on Saturday afternoon. Photos, taken by witnesses, show that flames engulfed a vending machine. They also spread to a 100-foot stretch of the pier and sent a giant cloud of smoke billowing up the East River.
“No one felt like they were going to get hurt, but people just started freaking out and you know everyone wanted to run for the door,” said Shane. “So it was just a bottleneck and a crazy mess of people trying to get out.”
By nighttime all was calm. A YouTube video that captured the fire confirmed that the smoke was thick.
R.J. Virata was also there when the flames broke out.
“I was hanging out at The Beer Garden and then all of a sudden there was this billowing black smoke coming out from right behind it,” Virata said. “Everybody started running towards us. There were a bunch of cops and then there were the employees that were telling us to go back.”
The fire was actually coming from below the pier, so firefighters had to cut through the planks with chainsaws. At the same time, marine units doused the flames from the water.
“It’s a large area of wood,” a firefighter at the scene explained. “It’s old timber, it’s very thick, it easily burns and it’s hard to access.”
The flames were doused before they reached any of the surrounding shops or restaurants. The pier will be inspected to make sure it’s still safe.
Were you at Pier 17 on Saturday? Let us know what you saw while you were there in the comments section below…