In the space of a few weeks, two fires occurred at the northern Milton Pier. The second one on August 17 resulted in the closure of the pier itself.
Milton Assistant Fire Chief Gael Appler Jr, said the first fire occurred in the beginning of August. He suspected that both fires were caused by someone fishing off the pier and tossing a lit cigarette down, thinking it would hit the water and go out. Instead it got caught in some debris under the dock, causing a fire both times. The first fire was kept at bay by the individuals who doused the flames with water from a cooler before the fire department arrived.
Appler said the second time, however, the fire quickly got out of hand, due in part to a 30 mph wind that was blowing down the river and also because of very dry conditions in the Hudson Valley.
“The dock was like a tinder-box, I guess, and it didn’t take much,” he said. “Luckily we were out on another call and just got back to the station when the dispatch came in for the pier fire. So we were there from the firehouse to the Landing in about a minute and a half.”
Appler said the second fire caused a significant amount of damage to the pier and questioned if it can be repaired, “at least by volunteer standards. We’d almost have to start over. We had to cut away quite a bit of decking [because] underneath the heavy timber framing was on fire pretty good. That’s when we had the Poughkeepsie marine fire boat come in for the stuff underneath us. Later on that night we went back and there was still some smoking that we had to put out.”
Appler said a creosote coating is used on the wood underneath the pier to prevent rotting, “but when it is on fire it takes right off because it is basically soaked in oil.”
Appler said they were able to knock down the fire pretty quickly, “but it took awhile to get everything out.”
Ten years ago Appler and a crew of volunteers rebuilt the northern pier, which was originally built in the 1950s.
“At least we had ten years and the whole idea was to get the community down there to enjoy the Hudson River. I think it did a very good job for the 10 years, and hopefully we can get it rebuilt,” he said. “I think that pier was special to a lot of people in the community.”
Appler said going forward they will make sure that people understand there will be no smoking on the piers.
“It’s just too dangerous, as we’ve seen,” he said.
Supervisor Scott Corcoran said the town has $1.75 million insurance policy on the pier. He said the company will come out to inspect the pier, “and then they will tell us what they believe the value of the damage is and they will pay out based on that estimate.”
Corcoran affirmed that the pier will be rebuilt.
“In my estimate there is about 50% damage done to the pier decking but it depends on what their underwriter says the damage is worth,” Corcoran said.
After a monetary figure is determined on what the company will pay, the town will then have to have an engineer evaluate the damage and then solicit actual costs of what it will take to bring the pier back to its original condition.
Corcoran is worried about the condition of the pylons once the decking is removed. He also wants to see if a composite material can be used for the deck instead of replacing it with wood, “because it will just keep happening. We’ve got to take the under-decking out 100% as that is probably one of the biggest causes.”