Early in the morning of May 23, a fire broke out on the San Francisco waterfront along the historic Fisherman’s Wharf, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. According to reports, the fire raged from 4 a.m. until nearly 7 a.m., when firefighters brought the blaze under control. The fire continued to burn in contained locations well into midmorning. In that time, the fire destroyed a fish processing and storage warehouse in an inferno that was visible from miles away, according to KPIX.
According to CNN, firefighters first responded to a 911 call around 4:15 a.m. When they arrived on the scene, they were greeted with towering flames which had engulfed the warehouse of Caito Fisheries, a family-owned fish processing plant and major processor for the Northern California crab fleet, KPIX reported. The fire collapsed the storage warehouse before moving on to nearby structures and funneling under the pier.
According to Lt. Jonathan Baxter with the San Francisco Fire Department, a quarter of the pier was lost to the fire. At its height, the fire climbed nearly a hundred feet in the air while smoke swirled through San Francisco’s collection of high rises and spilled across the Bay into Oakland. The flames came dangerously close to a popular tourist section of the Fisherman’s Wharf before firefighters were able to contain them. At the height of the fire, more than 100 firefighters and first responders were on the scene.
According to the fire department, no deaths have been reported. Firefighters evacuated the pier and nearby businesses upon arriving at Pier 45, and authorities remained on the scene to redirect traffic and keep passerby away from the danger, according to KPIX. Police Marine Units and the Coast Guard patrolled the bay to prevent boats from approaching the fire. Baxter added that authorities are still searching the scene to determine if anyone was inside the warehouse when the fire broke out. Some fear that homeless people may have been inside.
A single firefighter was taken to the hospital for an injury to their hand, according to CNN. No other injuries have been reported and authorities have not yet determined the cause of the massive fire.
KPIX commended fire authorities for saving the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, a historic World War II ship named for Captain Jeremiah O’Brien, who fought in the Revolutionary War. The O’Brien is one of only two fully functional Liberty ships from the Revolutionary War, according to the Washington Post. In order to save the ship, firefighters enlisted the St. Francis, one member of the fleet of fireboats operated by the San Francisco Fire Department, to contain the fire from San Francisco Bay.
“When firefighters arrived, the flames were literally lapping over the Jeremiah O’Brien,” Lt. Baxter said. “They literally saved the O’Brien.”
This is not the first fire to burn across the San Francisco waterfront. According to the website of Fisherman’s Wharf, the modern waterfront was built “from the rubble of buildings destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906.” On April 18, 1906, an estimated 7.9-magnitude earthquake ruptured along the San Andreas fault, shaking the coast from southern Oregon to Los Angeles and sparking fires in San Francisco, where the damage was particularly brutal.