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South Station Tower fire forces Suffolk Construction to halt project for safety audit

Construction on hold at South Station Tower after fire
Construction on hold at South Station Tower after fire 02:11

BOSTON – Suffolk Construction announced it has halted work at the South Station Tower construction project in Boston until a safety audit can be completed following a small fire Tuesday morning.

Smoke poured from the project above South Station in Boston on Tuesday morning, though flames were contained to the construction site at 700 Atlantic Ave. where luxury apartments are being built. 

The Boston Fire Department said there was a fire involving construction materials on the outside deck of the 9th floor. 

According to Suffolk Construction, the small fire was caused by J.F. Stearns ironworkers who were welding tube steel. The company said fire watchers were at the job site, and the flames were immediately extinguished. No one was hurt.

Many people who work nearby saw the flames and smoke as their buses or trains pulled in.

"There just were plumes of black smoke and visible large flames coming out from the base of the construction," said Sarah Wolman, who works nearby.  

Smoke pours from South Station Tower in Boston following a fire at the construction site.  Amanda Vicari/SGA

In March, a giant steel beam plummeted hundreds of feet at the same construction site, getting lodged on the ninth floor of the tower.

Suffolk announces "safety standdown"

Following the latest incident, Suffolk announced a "safety standdown" for all South Station Tower workers. In a statement, the company said work will not resume until a comprehensive safety audit is completed.

We will be redoubling safety protocols and reviewing the safety plans and procedures of every subcontractor on the jobsite. Suffolk will require union leaders and subcontractors to walk the jobsite with a Suffolk representative, and the union representatives, subcontractors, and all personnel will be required to reconfirm their commitment to following all safety protocols. Suffolk will determine when work can resume after the comprehensive safety audit has been completed. Suffolk leadership has also called a mandatory meeting with union, subcontractor, and Suffolk leadership scheduled for this afternoon at Suffolk Headquarters to reinforce the importance of safety. Safety remains Suffolk's number one priority and we are committed to doing everything possible to ensure the union trades follow our strict safety protocols on South Station and all Suffolk jobsites.

According to OSHA's database, Suffolk was cited twice in 2022 for a fire hazard in the Back Bay and in South Boston for a collapse that made a worker lose both legs.

The MBTA said there was no impact on T service at South Station following the Tuesday fire.    

Among the projects at the South Station Tower are the Ritz-Carlton Residences, which will range from $1.3 million to $14 million when completed. They will be on the top 16 floors of the tower.

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