Saturday, 2:15 PM
Owners vow to rebuild after blaze destroys landmark seafood business in Boston
(George Rizer/Globe Staff)
By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
A landmark wholesale and retail seafood business on Boston's waterfront was destroyed early this morning by a seven-alarm fire, its wood and corrugated metal buildings going up in flames so fast that firefighters stationed across the street immediately called for reinforcements as they began trying to quell the blaze.
The fire at James Hook & Co. had likely been smoldering inside the three buildings for some time before erupting in flames at 3:20 a.m., said Steve MacDonald, a spokesman for the Boston Fire Department. Fire officials have estimated damage at $5 million.
A pillar of smoke rose above the towering office buildings in the Financial District, filling the morning air with a burnt odor that could be detected for miles. The blaze devoured 60,000 pounds of lobster, which was valued at up to $9 a pound.
Edward Hook II told reporters his family plans to restart their business as soon as possible and that "friends'' in the industry have already reached out and offered help.
Just how the business would continue after the fire was an issue the family did not have any real time to focus on today.
After watching since about 4 a.m. as firefighters deluged the building with water, the family was in the parking lot this afternoon watching as cranes were brought in to demolish what was left.
"If I survived the Big Dig, I can survive anything. That was like hand-to-hand combat,'' Edward Hook told reporters. "We will set up a trailer, we will set up a tent. I don't know what we are going to do, but we will find a way. Once this mess is cleaned up, we will find a way.''
There were no reports of injuries. The cause is being investigated by the fire department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, MacDonald said.
(George Rizer/Globe Staff)
Mayor Menino has reached out to the Hook family and the city was working today to try and help them start the rebuilding process, said mayor's spokeswoman Dot Joyce.
She said the city would see if they could provide office space at the Marine Industrial Park in South Boston for the Hook family so they could continue to operate their business while they push ahead with rebuilding plans.
Joyce said the mayor is committed to supporting the Hook family and to keeping their business in the downtown neighborhood where they are surrounded by high rise hotels and office buildings. "Hook Lobster is an institution in the city and he wants to help them rebuild,'' Joyce said of the mayor..
It took more than 135 firefighters and a dozen pieces of equipment several hours to knock down the blaze. The battle included firefighters in scuba gear on the harbor-side of the building spraying the flames with seawater. Other crews with hoses worked to keep the blaze from spreading to the adjacent pedestrian bridge.
The blaze forced the closure of Atlantic Avenue from Congress Street to the five-star Boston Harbor Hotel for several hours. By mid-morning the avenue had been reopened, but the Moakley Bridge was still closed to vehicular traffic.
MacDonald said the first alarm sounded at 3:23 a.m., the other alarms soon following as the fire moved swiftly and heavily along the west side of the building. The wooden building rested above Fort Point Channel on creosote-soaked timbers, which helped fuel the flames. It was too dangerous for firefighters to enter the building, MacDonald said.
The building contained rooms full of corrugated cardboard boxes used for shipping seafood.
James Hook & Co. has been in business since 1925, when the Hook brothers started trucking their catch of lobsters from Maine and Canada to Boston's fish piers and selling them directly to the city's top restaurants. The Atlantic Avenue business now ships 50,000 pounds of lobsters a day, according to its website.
Edward Hook II, who is one of the owners, rushed to the scene this morning from his home on the North Shore. He could see the smoke as he crossed the Zakim Bridge.
"I knew there was trouble, but when I got here it was pretty devastating," Hook said. "I'm in a fog."
(Photo by Anne Jarek)
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