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Fisherman's Wharf Warehouse Fire Destroyed Fishing Traps, Threatening Dungeness Crab Season

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) -- The huge fire that tore through a warehouse at Fisherman's Wharf has destroyed fishing gear used to deliver about two-thirds of the city's fresh seafood, threatening to disrupt the upcoming Dungeness crab season, local fishermen said Sunday.

The fire erupted before dawn Saturday and wiped out a warehouse the size of a football field near the north end of Pier 45.

San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Pier 45 Fire
Photo, courtesy of Dan Whaley, @dwhly, shows a warehouse fire burning on Pier 45 at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf May 23, 2020. The fire tore through a warehouse, sending thick smoke over the waterfront (Dan Whaley, @dwhly via AP)

Larry Collins, who runs the San Francisco Community Fishing Association, estimates that thousands of crab, shrimp and black cod traps worth up to $5 million were lost in the blaze. He told the San Francisco Chronicle the numbers could be far higher since port officials changed the warehouse's function into a storage facility in February because it lacked proper fire sprinklers.

"Pier 45 is the heart and soul of commercial fishing out of the Bay Area," Collins said. "To take a hit like this, it's a bad one. Most people don't think about where their salmon, crab or black cod come from but that's where: It's Pier 45."

RELATED: Massive Fire Destroys Warehouse at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf

The concrete pier is home to a mix of seafood and maritime businesses and tourist attractions, including the Musée Mécanique, a museum devoted to historic arcade games, and the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, a historic World War II liberty ship. They are among numerous tourist attractions on the wharf.

Visitors also come for the Dungeness crabs, clam chowders served in sourdough bread bowls, the sea lions that lounge on the floating docks and shops at Pier 39.

San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Pier 45 Fire
Fire hoses cross the intersection of Taylor and Jefferson streets after a blaze broke out before dawn on Pier 45 at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco May 23, 2020. . (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The Chronicle reported that most of the salmon gear was saved because it's currently on boats. The black cod traps are largely in place for next week.

However, the crab pots that were packed to the ceiling in the warehouse couldn't be salvaged. With the Dungeness crab season expected to begin in mid-November, local crab boat owners launched a campaign to raise $1 million to buy new gear. Crab pots cost up to $300 each.

"We've got to get this fixed," Collins said. "The fleet that fishes out of here is basic to our food security."

San Francisco Fire Department crews will remain on the scene through at least Monday, a fire department spokesman said.

"These units are tasked with making sure that flare-ups and hot spots stay out," SFFD Lt. Jonathan Baxter said Sunday on social media. The fire department is working closely with the Port of San Francisco on "multiple topics" related to the fire, Baxter added.

The fire damaged the underside of the pier, Baxter said Saturday, and the pier will be examined by the port officials for structural integrity.

Port of San Francisco officials said initial inspections started Sunday to determine the structural integrity of the pier and its structures.

"Findings will be reported to the public," the Port said Sunday on social media. "Port tenants impacted by the fire will be kept informed and notified when safe to return."

Port officials also said Sunday that Pier 45 tenants affected by the fire have been connected with disaster relief resources through the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report

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