Treasure Island fire raises question of water availability

The second abandoned building fire in as many months on Treasure Island burned for more than six hours Thursday before fire crews extinguished it using water pumped from the Bay.

The cause of the fire, which broke out at an abandoned Navy building shortly before 7 a.m., was still under investigation as crews pumped millions of gallons of water onto the blaze. Firefighters had the flames under control by 1:30 p.m, fire Lt. Ken Smith said.

Battalion Chief Mike Morris said the fire took a long time to put out because fire crews adopted a defensive posture, spraying water from outside. There was no threat to life or other property, he said.

The fire is the second in just over a month to break out in an abandoned Navy building on Treasure Island. On May 17, a fire destroyed an abandoned barracks. In that fire, crews deployed a pumping boat for the first time since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but did not turn the pumps on. They were able to get the blaze under control using residential water supply on the island.

On Thursday, the boat was deployed again, and was put into service immediately. “We’ve exceeded the amount of water those hydrants put out,” Smith said. “It’s really about water. Not enough water.”

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission spokesman Tony Winnicker said the water supply on Treasure Island was operating at full capacity Thursday.

As plans move forward to develop the island with high-rise apartment buildings, the Fire Department has expressed concern that the current water supply will be insufficient for emergencies.

On Thursday, Treasure Island Community Development, a private partnership slated to develop the island, issued a statement saying it intends to build a new water system, including a secondary water supply on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

A woman and her dog were in the building at the time of the fire and were rescued by an electrical contracting crew working nearby with a bucket lift, said Mirian Saez, director of island operations for the Treasure Island Development Authority. Saez said local youth, copper thieves and homeless people looking for shelter often break into the buildings and cause fire hazards.

amartin@examiner.com

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