Wharf fire in San Francisco causes millions in damages, gear losses

A fire broke out on Pier 45 at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco early Saturday morning, 23 May, destroying a warehouse and as much as USD 4 million (EUR 3.6 million) worth of commercial fishing gear inside. The four-alarm blaze shot flames more than 100 feet into the air, with plumes of smoke rising high above the San Francisco Bay, before being contained by the afternoon.

At least 150 firefighters responded and were able to keep the flames from spreading to other commercial fishing facilities on the wharf, San Francisco Fire Department spokesman Lt. Jon Baxter said. The World War II-era SS Jeremiah O'Brien ship tied up alongside the warehouse was also saved.

Around 15 buyers and processors are located on the wharf, said Larry Collins, president of the San Francisco Community Fishing Association, but none of the businesses sustained damage to their offices, freezers, or production facilities. The facilities did not lose power during the blaze, and it did not appear that there was any product loss a day after the fire.

“The firemen did a good job – a real good job. It’s a tough kind a fire,” Collins said. “But there’s still a lot of unanswered questions, so we’re going to take it one day at a time.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and Baxter said it could be days, if not weeks, before a cause is determined and release to the public. There were no fatalities in the fire, but one firefighter sustained a hand injury.

With the squid and king salmon seasons underway, it’s unclear when fishermen will be able to resume offloading their catch in San Francisco because of the damage to the wharf. But Collins is optimistic that the wharf didn’t sustain structural damage and that business will be able to return to normal in a few days. If there is significant disruption, the closest ports with seafood processing facilities are Bodega Bay to the north and Half Moon Bay to the south.

The warehouse that burned was full of Dungeness crab traps, black cod gear, and other equipment, Collins said.

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association is monitoring the situation and ready to raise funds and provide assistance to fishermen who’ve sustained losses, according to Mike Conroy, the association’s executive director.

“Once we have a better handle on the baseline economic costs, we’ll take action to help guys get their gear back before the season,” Conroy said. “We dealt with COVID-19 and we’ll deal with this. It will it be an inconvenience, but we’ll persevere.”

The San Francisco Crab Boat Owners are organizing a GoFundMe to help fishermen replace lost gear.

"Donated funds will be used to re-equip fishing businesses with the gear necessary to continue working and bringing fresh seafood to San Francisco," according to the fundraising page. "As a community, we have lost approximately two-thirds of the capacity to harvest the fresh seafood that is delivered to San Francisco, and the essence of our livelihoods."

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


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