NY Daily News - July 15, 2012by Sarah Armaghan AND Rich Schapiro
The FDNY responded to the tourist hotspot around 4 p.m. to fight a smoky three-alarm blaze that started underneath the far end of Pier 17, firefighters at the scene said.Firefighters battled a smoky three-alarm blaze that broke out underneath Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport Saturday afternoon. The FDNY responded to the tourist hotspot around 4 p.m. to fight a blaze that spread throughout the far end of the undercarriage of the Seaport, where roughly 500 people were enjoying the beautiful summer weather, FDNY officials said. “It’s hard to get to,” one smoke-eater said while 140 firefighters were on scene fighting the flames. “The fire is still going, it’s stubborn.” “I saw flames going up, I thought it was an entire ship that was caught on fire,” said one Seaport security guard. 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.” There were no injuries reported, officials said, and the fire was under control just before 6 p.m. As rumors swirled about the start of the fire being set from a flicked cigarette to a soda machine that lit up, fire marshals were on scene determining the cause. Eduardo Abundez, 23, who works at the Alamo Flag souvenir shop in the Seaport’s three-story mall on the pier, was on his way to work when a coworker called and said the building was being evacuated. “When I made it to the back of the Seaport, I couldn’t see the Brooklyn Bridge at all - it was all covered in smoke.” The Village Voice’s 4Knots Music Festival was well underway when smoke started to fill the air. The band Hospitality was playing on the main stage, but far from the seat of the fire, said Keith Hagan, a festival spokesman. "It was pretty bad, the air was coming off the water and it was feeding the fire,” said Carlton Walter, 44, who was working as a security guard for one of the bands. “It started fast and it spread fast, it was even starting to climb up." The music was halted for a short time but was expected to continue through the night, Hagan said. Meanwhile, the Twittersphere was bombarded with photos and tweets about the smoke that could be seen as far away as the United Nations on E. 42nd St. and many parts of Brooklyn. About 1,000 square feet of the pier was blocked off and the Department of Buildings was on scene to determine the stability of the structure, which is set on a concrete slab, Long said. Calls and emails to The Howard Hughes Corp., which owns the Seaport, were not immediately returned, but shops and restaurants that were not affected were open for business Saturday night.