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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

City to build floating fire station in case of earthquake


The Port of San Francisco partnered with the San Francisco Department of Public Works to create a state-of-the-art fireboat station by 2020, which would be able to withstand a major earthquake estimated by seismologists to hit the Bay Area within the next 20 years.

When the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake shook the city of San Francisco in 1989, it caused 63 deaths, 3,757 injuries and an estimated $6-10 billion in property damage. Since then, the understanding of seismic threats to the Bay Area has improved through increased awareness
of earthquake hazards and emergency preparation strategies, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The city passed an Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response bond in 2014, which provided funding for Fire Station 35, a new fireboat station that will sit directly behind the current historic firehouse located on Pier 22 ½. Fire Station 35 is designed to improve emergency response times during a disaster and to withstand the next major earthquake.

The city is excited for the project since the current station is “inadequate to meet San Francisco’s public service and water rescue needs,” according to Public Works project manager Magdalena Ryor.

“Fire Station 35 is unique in that it houses SFFD fireboats and its staff [is] trained to respond to marine-related emergencies,” Ryor said. “During a major emergency or disaster, this new facility will serve as the city’s marine emergency operations center.”  After the Loma Prieta temblor, the existing finger piers that the San Francisco Fire Department uses to dock their fireboats were “severely deteriorated,” according to
Public Works engineer Sean O’Brien.

Fireboat No.1, Phoenix, was imperative during the aftermath of the 1989 quake, which at the time was extremely reliable in the Marina District because it pumped water from St. Francis Yacht Harbor into the city’s portable water system and delivered assistance to damaged homes surrounding the beach and Divisadero Street.

The city wanted Fire Station 35’s design to be resilient against potential sea level rises over the next 50 years and capable of responding to a catastrophic earthquake.  The facility will have an emergency generator that will allow it to operate for 72 hours after a power outage.

As the Bay Area’s population continues to grow, the station will act as a regional facility to meet increased emergency calls for service.

The new station will be built on top of a steel float anchored by six guide piles, which help resist seismic activity and sea level rises. SFFD Engine Company No. 35 will operate the new facility while the older stations at Piers 22 ½ and 24 will be demolished.

Currently, there are six crew members working at the existing station, according to SFFD Lt. Jonathan Baxter. The firehouse will house a daily crew of 10 firefighters with a total capacity of 35, once completed.

SFFD is looking forward to the new station, saying that “any upgrades to our facilities are welcomed and appreciated” and that it will provide a “continued opportunity to provide services to our community.”

The budget for this project was set at $39.9 million. Swinerton Builders formed a joint venture with local marine contractor Power Engineering to design and build the new station. They are both working closely together for both the building and the floating aspect of the design.

Construction of Fire Station 35 is slated to begin later this year and should be completed by 2020, according to Swinerton.

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City to build floating fire station in case of earthquake