"Iconic" Ship Spared By Fisherman's Wharf Fire

Melissa Culross
May 23, 2020 - 12:17 pm
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A historic World War II-era ship docked at Pier 45 was saved from an early Saturday fire that destroyed offices, equipment and storage facilties at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

That ship is the iconic SS Jeremiah O’Brien, one of two fully-functional remaining Liberty ships built and launched during World War II. It is permanently docked at Pier 45. The ship is thought to have smoke damage and blistering paint, according to Jeremiah O'Brien Senior Ship Keeper Phil O'Mara.

"Red and White Fleet lost their whole office, but we’re going to be fine," O’Mara said.

A ticket booth, forklift and the mooring lines were destroyed in the fire.

"(The firefighters) kept everything cool and the heat away from the fuel tanks we have on the deck, and things like that," O’Mara told KCBS Radio. "Thanks to the fire boat and the (San Francisco) fire department."

The SS Jeremiah O’Brien was part of the armada that stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day in June 1944.

The ship was threatened Saturday morning by "flames of over 100 feet," but was ultimately spared from the destruction with a curtain of water provided by the fire boat St. Francis. Lt. Jonathan Baxter of the San Francisco Fire Department told reporters the ship was set as a "priority" when firefighters arrived on the scene at Pier 45.

"Our aggressive and swift actions saved the Jeramiah O'Brien, which if we're looking for one positive to come out of this tragic event, saving a historic World War II vessel at the beginning of Memorial Day weekend is something we should all be proud of as a community," Lt. Baxter said.

The SS Jeremiah O’Brien is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is typically open for tours and the occasional passenger cruise.