A fire broke out on Pier 45 at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco early Saturday morning, May 23, destroying a warehouse and as much as $4 million worth of commercial fishing gear inside. The 4-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, said San Francisco fire spokesman Lt. Jon Baxter. 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 offices, freezers and 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 off-loading 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 business can return to normal in a few days. If there is significant disruption, the closet ports with seafood processing facilities are in Bodega Bay to the north and Half Moon Bay to the south.

The warehouse that burned was full of Dungeness crab traps, blackcod gear and other equipment, Collins said, who estimated the total gear loss is around $3 million to $4 million.

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

“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," the fundraising page says. "As a community, we have lost approximately 2/3 of the capacity to harvest the fresh seafood that is delivered to San Francisco and the essence of our livelihoods."

Nick Rahaim is a writer and commercial fisherman based in Monterey, Calif. Check out his website, outside-in.org, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @nrahaim.

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