A W52nd Street fire burned for hours in the basement of an unlicensed smoke shop overnight Wednesday — the latest in a spate of fires to hit Hell’s Kitchen, but the first at one of the area’s prolific illicit cannabis stores.

The interior of Hell’s Kitchen Clouds after the fire. Photo: Phil O’Brien

FDNY first responsed to the fire at the five-story, 16-unit building at 346 W52nd Street between 8th and 9th Avenue, home to Hell’s Kitchen Clouds, at 11:42pm Wednesday evening. It was declared a two-alarm fire at 12:15am, according to FDNY. Officials said over 100 firefighters were needed to deal with the blaze, which was finally brought under control at 1:58am on Thursday. Apartments above the shop lost electricity and gas, as did the adjacent Korean restaurant Danji.

Danji sous chef Diablo told W42ST: “We salvaged whatever we could from our coolers — my friendly neighbors at Via Toscana let us put the rest of our fish and meat in their refrigerators.” He added that they may be closed for up to a week. Adjacent businesses Via Toscana and Hush were unaffected by the fire and expected to open this evening.

Firefighters on 9th Avenue at the end of W52nd Street Wednesday evening. Photo: Tom Ziuback

The blaze is one of several major fires in the area recently, including a February incident at 764 9th Avenue which led to a widespread investigation over the legality of tenant e-bike storage. Improperly stored e-bikes and lithium batteries have been determined as a significant fire risk across the city, with some landlords banning them altogether. E-bike batteries were identified as the cause of a two-alarm fire at 725 11th Avenue, a blaze that has left its residents homeless for nearly a year. As for the neighborhood’s smoke shops — although the city has declared a crackdown on unlicensed vendors as detrimental to the city’s legal rollout, dozens of stores still remain in Midtown.

The exterior of Hell’s Kitchen Clouds. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The FDNY said there were no injuries sustained in the fire. W42ST has reached out for additional details on the cause of the blaze and will update this story if we hear back. 

Join the Conversation


  1. I mean really? What is keeping our local public ELECTED officials from putting a stop to non licensed businesses selling who knows what?

    It makes no sense. City Council, NY State can take swift action on something like this and we see the usual slow walk. Any shop without a license should be shut down. If you don’t have a liquor license, can you sell alcohol? They’d be shut down over night.

    No sense to this obvious blight on our neighborhood. Other states have taken swift action. Other local councils have taken emergency action to shut them down. But once again, Hell’s Kitchen residents are the dumping ground of issues that take a little bit of grit to solve.

  2. I’m actually confused why it’s so difficult to shut them down?
    Can I just open a bar or brothel in the neighborhood? Or perhaps a go cart race track on the pier at the park?

  3. Illegal weed shop fire, illegal bike chop shop fire, extended walkway on 9th overrun with unlicensed motor vehicles… I grew up in a city (NYC!!!) that when elected officials and/or law enforcement seemed to have their hands tied, would at the very least make their presence known and make it imminently clear that some behavior was not appreciated by the neighborhood and eyes were on them, in the interest and as the voice of their constituency (yes, this sometimes requires face-to-face contact!)… we have no voice in Hell’s Kitchen. The message here is we need to advocate for ourselves…

  4. These fires, and the quick-shot opening of all the weed shops combined with the lack of “action” in every way, by the “representatives” of this area are in the pan of what’s cooking in Hell’s Kitchen right now, along with bureaucratic unknown ingredients.
    A complicated combination of ingredients.
    The real estate interests who backstage manage all of NYC want to “smoke” the small 5 story buildings on the avenues and streets “out” to merge lots together.

    Much of 9th avenue has been, and still is, a European money laundering channel.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *