California crabbers get USD 6.2 million settlement for San Francisco pier fire

The Pier 45 fire.

Dungeness crab fishermen in San Francisco, California, U.S.A. won final approval for a USD 6.2 million (EUR 5.7 million) legal settlement over gear they lost when a four-alarm fire swept a shed on Pier 45 in 2020.

The settlement was reached in late 2022 between about 30 fishermen, the city and county of San Francisco, Allied Universal Security, and Treeline Security. San Francisco officials signed off on the deal 19 May, 2023, according to Stuart Gross, the fishermen’s’ attorney.

Port officials leased space in Shed C to the fishermen, but failed to maintain fire protections or the aging electrical system inside the 85,000-square-foot facility, the fishermen's lawsuit, filed in 2020, alleged.

Port officials and their security contractors also failed to keep homeless people out of the structure, where they sometimes used fires for cooking, the fishermen complained. Flammable materials including “volatile fuels and piles of wooden pallets and garbage that the port failed to clear” contributed to the danger, according to Gross.

“It’s great to finally get this approved and get money in guys’ pockets. Fishermen have had a very rough year,” John Barnett, one of the plaintiffs and president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, said in a prepared statement. “The crab season was shortened on both ends, and we were paid some of the lowest prices in recent memory. And then the salmon season was canceled. Many guys still haven’t recovered from the losses they suffered in the fire. This settlement is really needed.”

The concrete pier is home to maritime businesses along with tourist attractions, including the Jeremiah O’Brien, a restored World War II Liberty ship, which was saved by San Francisco firefighters and their fire boat. But all of the fishing gear housed in the wharf was lost to the flames.

“Many of us lost thousands of dollars’ worth of gear in the fire, and we don’t have a pot of savings that can be dipped into when something like this happens,” San Francisco-based crabber John Mellor said. “This settlement, for a lot of us, is the difference between making it and not making it.”

Photo courtesy of San Francisco Fire Department/SS Jeremiah O'Brien


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