SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A massive four-alarm fire erupted at a warehouse on San Francisco waterfront near Fisherman’s Wharf early Saturday, threatening to engulf the historic U.S. liberty ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien and destroying a crab processing plant.

San Francisco fire spokesman Jonathan Baxter said one firefighter was injured battling the blaze and was in stable condition. A fire
truck was also damaged.

The firefighters began responding to 911 calls of a fire on the waterfront at Taylor and Jones streets around 4:15 a.m. Arriving crews were confronted with towering flames engulfing the warehouse, forcing them to take a defensive stance.

The warehouse contained a large fish processing operation — family-owned Caito Fisheries. The company is a major processor for the Northern California crab fleet.

The structure began to collapse shortly after firefighters arrived. San Francisco’s Fireboat 3 came on the scene, battling the blaze next to the O’Brien, but fire had spread underneath the pier. Streets around the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood were shutdown.

Baxter said the fireboat crew saved the historic ship.

“When firefighters arrived, the flames were literally lapping over the Jeremiah O’Brien,” he said. “They literally saved the O’Brien.”

Crews were also prevent the blaze from spreading to the USS Pampanito, which is also docked at the pier.

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Firefighters said the massive blaze had spread to other structures on the pier. By 6:40 a.m., firefighters had the fire contained but it would not be extinguished for hours.

“We have fire isolated to the rear of Pier 45,” Baxter said at 7 a.m.

He said that the fire tore through Building C on the pier and “all four corners of the building have collapsed into the building. We have been told there should be no one in the building (at the time of the fire) at nighttime.”

Still, Baxter said, rescue crews were searching the smoldering remains the best they could to make sure there were no victims of the blaze.

He said at the height of the battle with the flames there were 130 firefighters and 50 apparatus on the scene.

Baxter asked onlookers on the ground and on boats to stay away from the area. The Coast Guard was on the scene helping to police the waters.

Building inspectors will determine how badly the pier has been damaged.

The fire could be seen for miles. A large plume of smoke covered much of the San Francisco Bay, stretching from Sausalito to Oakland. Several residents have reported on social media to being able to smell the smoke.

Visitors to San Francisco’s popular Fisherman’s Wharf are very familiar with the pier as it has several old warships docked along side of it.

No injuries were reported to the firefighters. An investigation will determine the cause of the blaze.

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