By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Fire destroys landmark seafood business in Boston
Boston Fire BX101 4921886
Boston firefighters pour water on James Hook & Co., a landmark lobster business in downtown Boston that erupted in a seven-alarm blaze overnight Friday May 30, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    BOSTON — A fire destroyed a landmark seafood business on the waterfront early Friday, snarling rush hour traffic and raising fears the building would collapse into the harbor. There were no reports of injuries.
    Firefighters struggled to contain the blaze at James Hook & Co. for several hours after it broke out about 3:30 a.m. Flames burned through rooms full of corrugated cardboard boxes used for shipping seafood, fire department spokesman Steve MacDonald said.
    The cause of the blaze was unclear.
    Damage was estimated at $5 million, including the loss of about 60,000 pounds of lobster, MacDonald said. No one was in the building, which housed both wholesale and retail businesses, when the fire began.
    James Hook & Co. has been in business since 1925 and is now run by third and fourth generations of the family. Co-owner Ed Hook said family members hope to rebuild.
    ‘‘When you’ve been coming to the same place for 30 years and opening up every morning and suddenly you can’t service your customers anymore, it’s a strange feeling,’’ he said.
    Firefighters were forced to battled the fire from outside the wooden building, which extends on pilings over the harbor, out of fear it would collapse.
    ‘‘My guess is eventually a crane will be brought in to take down what isn’t fallen in,’’ MacDonald said.
    Divers were in the harbor to check the integrity of the pilings below the building and to be on hand in case a firefighter fell into the water. There were also hoses in the water to keep fire from threatening a nearby wooden pedestrian bridge, MacDonald said.
    A portion of Atlantic Avenue, the main thoroughfare along the waterfront, was shut down and an Interstate 93 exit closed.
    Hook said he learned about the fire from his brother, Jimmy, around 4 a.m.
    ‘‘I didn’t know how to react. I was in shock,’’ Hook said. ‘‘It hit me when I got here.’’
    The business started when an earlier generation of 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 business grew to ship 50,000 pounds of lobster a day, according to its Web site. It also had a popular retail outlet.
    The building sits in the heart of Boston’s waterfront, close to the luxury Boston Harbor and Intercontinental hotels. It is across the street from fire department headquarters.
    Meanwhile, in upstate Utica, N.Y., a stubborn blaze at another iconic local business, the F.X. Matt Brewing Co., did at least $10 million in damage and took firefighters more than 14 hours to bring under control.
    Utica fire marshal Raymond Beck said Friday that a welding project may have been the cause. Two employees had just finished welding brackets to machinery in a second-floor bottling area when the fire broke out Thursday afternoon, he said.
    The fire erupted just as a weekly outdoor concert hosted by the company was starting. Hundreds of nearby residents were told to leave their homes until later in the evening.
    Fred Matt, vice president of the 120-year-old brewery known for its Saranac brand beer, said the company will rebuild.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter