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SF port approves $6.2M payout to fishers over devastating Pier 45 fire

A four-alarm fire destroyed a warehouse on Pier 45 early Saturday, May 23, 2020. | Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The San Francisco Port Commission voted to approve a $6.2 million settlement with a group of fishers over a massive fire in May 2020 that gutted a Pier 45 warehouse destroying millions of dollars in equipment.

The fire broke out in the early morning hours and grew to a major four-alarm blaze that engulfed the 100,000-square-foot warehouse near Fisherman’s Wharf before being doused in a major effort involving 150 firefighters. 

The settlement will now go before the Board of Supervisors for approval.

A preliminary fire investigation estimated the fire caused $12 million in property damage and $3 million in equipment and content losses. The investigation said the cause of the fire was most likely accidental with electrical failure, discarded smoking materials or activity by unhoused occupants. 

Seven months after the fire, a group of fishers filed suit against the city for damages stemming from the fire, accusing port officials of failing to maintain adequate fire protections and updating electrical equipment at the warehouse. 

A slew of lawsuits followed between the city, the fishers and Allied Universal Security Services and Treeline Security, two contractors responsible for guarding the facility and the pier. 

The settlement breaks down between $2.07 million contributed by the city’s liability insurers, $1.25 million paid by Treeline and $2.89 million paid by Allied Universal. 

“This settlement will provide much-needed compensation to fishers devastated by this fire, and will be funded entirely by insurance companies and the security providers. No City or Port money will be used,” attorney Stuart Gross, who is representing the fishers, said in a statement. 

“There is no reason to further delay getting compensation to these hardworking men and women, who represent what's the best about San Francisco,” Gross said.

San Francisco crabbers and fishers said the fire worsened the outlook for an industry struggling under the weight of Covid shutdowns and seasonal delays. 

John Barnett, a longtime crabber and the president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, said in December 2021 that he lost $300,000 worth of equipment in the 2020 warehouse blaze, primarily rigged-up crab traps vital to his operations.

Kevin Truong can be reached at kevin@sfstandard.com