San Francisco

Floating Fire Station Project Gaining Traction in San Francisco

Designers in San Francisco are thinking outside the box in trying to rescue an old waterfront firehouse. More specifically, they're thinking on top of the water, with the creation of a floating fire station.

Station 35 is showing its age and sitting in a danger zone where its survival would be challenged by rising water levels and earthquakes. So officials are seeking a solution off shore.

"We know we need to make it more resilient for earthquakes and for sea level rise," said Rachel Gordon, of San Francisco's Public Works Department.

Just down the street from the station, water poured onto the Embaracdero during a king tide. Firefighters said the station hasn't flooded yet. But crews have moved fireboats to Treasure Island during stormy high tides to prevent them from damaging the dock.

With conditions changing, designers are looking for a safe station solution.

The fire commission and the port commission are supporting plans for a floating station, allowing the structure to go up and down with sea level rise and be more resilient in an earthquake.

Having fire fighters and fire boats ready to respond after an earthquake is crucial, Gordon said.

After the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, crews used the fire boat to get water to crews in the marina. Without the boat pumping water, more homes would have burned, fire officials said.

But is a floating fire station cost effective?

"It's about $100,000 less than a fixed pier, where we sink piles down into the bay mud," Gordon said.

The project is expected to cost more than $6 million, paid for with voter-approved earthquake bond money. But the Department of Public Works said it still needs state and federal approval because of it's a waterfront location.

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