San Francisco International Airport may be chiefly known as a venue for launching vessels into the air, but it’s also getting some upgrading when it comes to launching them in the water.
On Thursday, airport officials unveiled its new state-of-the-art Marine Emergency Response Facility, which is a fancy name for boathouse. The facility will house the San Francisco Fire Department’s airport marine unit, which responds to everything from windsurfer accidents to airplane emergencies.
Officials said the new $5.2 million dollar center is the first of its kind on the West Coast. They said the project was paid for with capital funds, and didn’t involve taxpayer money.
The facility will house two jet skis, a 27-foot Boston Whaler, and a 44-foot Moose Boat (Moose is the name of the manufacturer). There will also be a control center and a room for supplies like scuba gear.
“So if we have to respond, all we do is come right in here where the boats are here,” said firefighter Dave Monteverdi. “We start them then we’re off.”
That hasn’t been the case for the marine unit in the past. Firefighters said to respond to water emergencies, they’d have to pull their boats out of an airport hangar, hook them to trucks and haul them through the airport to a launch ramp.
The process would normally take around twenty-five minutes. Now with the boats already in the water inside the new facility, officials said the launch time would drop to less than five minutes.
“Time is of huge importance,” said San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White. “To be able to cut off those critical minutes could mean the difference between life and death.”
The idea of a new boat house resting on pylons in the famously shallow waters near SFO has been kicked around for well over a decade. But planners said the famous Hudson River landing by a United Airlines jet seemed to kick the process into a higher gear.
“Certainly that incident that happened a few years back on the Hudson, I think put it in everyone’s mind this was a great concept,” said Hayes-White.