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News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current


Oceanside, regional officials assess pier’s future after fire

Crews work to stop a fire at the end of the Oceanside Pier on Thursday, April 25. (SurfOutlook photo via the city of Oceanside)

Crews continued to douse a major fire at the end of the Oceanside Pier on Friday, April 26, as community and regional leaders pledged to get the damaged portion rebuilt as soon as possible.

The fire, which started the day before somewhere around the restaurant space that once held Ruby’s Diner, spread quickly but was contained to that portion of the pier, authorities said. While the restaurant space and end of the pier, called the hammerhead, were a total loss, the vast majority of the structure was undamaged.

“I would say the damage at the end of the pier — probably the last 5% we call the hammerhead, which is the platform that houses the restaurant — that is more or less a total loss,” Deputy Fire Chief Jess Specht said at a news conference Friday.

Further damage was prevented thanks to a trench that firefighters cut across the pier to stem the fire’s spread eastward, Specht said.

“So we saved I’d say about 90 to 95% of the pier,” he said.

As firefighters continue to manage the blaze as it burns out, city and regional leaders are seeking emergency declarations so the rebuilding process can proceed. Mayor Esther Sanchez and Rep. Mike Levin (D-49th District) were at Friday’s news conference to discuss that process.

The magnitude of the fire was not lost on Levin as he described being in Oceanside recently to discuss infrastructure in the city.

Click here for more OsideNews“I was just with the chief very recently looking at the new Fire Station 1 in downtown Oceanside and talking about the potential investments that the bridge needs here at the Oceanside Pier,” Levin said. “Little did I imagine that about a week later, we’d be here in these circumstances.”

Sanchez said that in addition to Levin at the federal level, state leaders were also being contacted. Local, state and federal emergency declarations will need to be in place so the city can apply for FEMA funds.

“The requirement is to do it within 10 days, and we’re definitely going to do that as a council,” Sanchez said.

She anticipated that the process would be launched at a special City Council meeting.

The remaining pier will remain closed until further notice, according to a city update on Friday afternoon. The beach and Strand are closed from Surfrider to Tyson Street as debris washes ashore and water quality is monitored. The Junior Seau Beach Community Center will remain closed for the weekend.

Air quality continues to improve, the city reported.

The fight to save an Oceanside landmark

On Thursday, smoke billowed from the restaurant spaces and the underside of the pier structure after the fire broke out at about 3 p.m. The smoke could be seen from as far east as Escondido and San Marcos south to Encinitas and Solana Beach.

Fire crews arrived within five minutes of the call, authorities said. No injuries were reported, according to the city, and personnel from the Brine Box and Bait Shop were accounted for. The blaze appeared to have started in the area of the restaurant spaces.

By the time a news conference was held Thursday, officials were confident that most of the pier had been saved.

“The vast majority of the pier itself is in good, undamaged condition,” Fire Chief David Parsons said Thursday.

Oceanside Pier. (OsideNews file photo by Steve Marcotte)
Oceanside Pier. (OsideNews file photo by Steve Marcotte)

Parsons explained that boats fought the fire from underneath, which was crucial because there was fire under the deck. At the height of Thursday’s efforts, Oceanside had eight chief officers, two ladder trucks, 11 fire engines, four rescue ambulances, two fire boats and a Coast Guard cutter on the scene.

In addition, Manson Construction, which is working on a sand replenishment project from Solana Beach to Encinitas, brought in its ship to assist, Parsons said. Two water-dropping helicopters, one from San Diego County and the other from SDG&E, also assisted.

The SDG&E helicopter was a critical component to the fight because it has the ability to dip into the ocean, which cut down on turnaround time, Parsons said Thursday.

“That’s kind of been a game changer for us,” he said.

The county’s helicopter can drop about 1,000 gallons per round, and SDG&E’s helicopter can drop about 2,500 gallons per round, according to Parsons.

The fight to save the pier was also an inter-agency effort on other fronts, Parsons noted.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that with all of these units and fire personnel on scene right now, we still have to provide service to the rest of the community,” he said Thursday. “So units from across the county, mostly in North County, have all come into Oceanside’s fire stations, and nearby stations, and are working out of our fire stations and providing the support and still running those medical calls or fire calls.”

In total, Parsons estimated that there were about 140 fire personnel, 30 lifeguard personnel and 30 police officers on hand.

“That’s something that may not always be thought of in a large incident like this,” he said.

On Friday, Levin said he was impressed by the level of coordination.

“The mutual aid was so impressive. Within a very short period of time, we had everybody from Carlsbad fire, Vista fire, all throughout San Diego County, and beyond,” Levin said Friday. “The Coast Guard and the federal firefighters at Camp Pendleton. I’m incredibly proud of how everybody worked together so quickly.”

The Oceanside Pier, which has existed in various forms since 1888, has faced destruction before. From the 1940s through the 1970s, storm waves and fires damaged portions of the structure, including previous businesses such as the Pier Cafe and the Pier Fish Market. The present pier was completed in 1987.

“This pier is so very, very important to the citizens of Oceanside,” Sanchez said at Thursday’s news conference. “It is iconic. It is Oceanside.”

The mayor said time is of the essence in starting the process to replace the west end.

“This is very, very important,” she said. “We need to do this as quickly as possible.”

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