Update: Fire on Oceanside, CA, Pier Caused about $17.2M Damage

May 21, 2024
Firefighters saved about 93 percent of the pier that burned in April, Oceanside Fire Chief David Parsons said.

Phil Diehl

The San Diego Union-Tribune


Response and repair costs could top $17.2 million for the April 25 fire that destroyed two buildings at the end of the Oceanside Municipal Pier, Oceanside Fire Chief David Parsons said Friday.

"The largest percentage of costs is for debris removal and repair or replacement of the damaged portion of the pier, estimated at $16.9 million," Parsons said. "The rest is a combination of personnel, fuel, food, emergency fencing and lighting, and other supplies for a multi-day operation."

Firefighters and other public safety employees have been widely praised for their quick response to the blaze, which investigators say appears to have started accidentally from electrical wires beneath the deck outside the buildings. Their efforts stopped the spread of the flames within hours, but hard-to-reach spots in the thick timbers continued to smolder for days.

Despite the initial dire outlook, about 93 percent of the pier was saved, Parsons said. Most of the pier, about 80 percent, reopened May 10 with the damaged end fenced off from the public.

Within days of the fire, the city declared a local emergency, which aids in the recovery of firefighting and repair costs. The initial estimates are part of that process.

"We submit this to the state for potential reimbursement," Parsons said in an email. "The governor or director of the Office of Emergency Services will determine whether we meet the standard for California Disaster Act Assistance funds. These costs are substantial, and the reimbursement decision will affect what can be accomplished."

The estimate does not include costs attributed to the numerous other agencies that helped fight the fire, he said.

"Most outside agency costs are covered through existing agreements," Parsons said. "Mutual and automatic aid agreements state we help each other at minimal to no cost during the first 12 hours of an incident, while pre-existing contracts are funded on an annual basis."

Assistant City Manager Michael Gossman said Friday it could be some time before repairs begin and several years before the full pier reopens.

"As soon as the insurance investigation is over, we will seek permits and put out for bids for the debris removal work," Gossman said.

"I could see that work starting this summer," he said. "One of the most time-consuming aspects of this in both debris removal and rebuild will be getting the necessary permits from all the various agencies."

After the remains of the long-vacant Ruby's Diner and the short-lived Brine Box seafood kiosk are removed, city engineers will work with consultants to determine what parts of the pier can be saved and what must be replaced.

"We will then move into the design phase, then seeking bids, permits, etc.," Gossman said. "I would not anticipate a full reopening for three years. There are only a handful of firms qualified to do this type of work.

"The city understands what an important asset the pier is to the entire North County community," he said. "We are working to get it back as soon as possible, but it's complicated work and will take time."

Oceanside has had a pier since 1888. The nearly 2,000-foot-long wooden structure there now is the sixth version, built in 1986 to replace one destroyed by storms.

The concrete approach to the pier, known as the Pier View Way Bridge, was built in 1927. Plans have been under way for several years to replace the deteriorating structure. That project is expected to cost about $40 million.

The new bridge and buildings beneath it, which include the city lifeguard headquarters, will be designed to look the same as the old ones, but also to meet modern standards for earthquake safety, handicapped access and more.

Planning also has begun for the renovation or replacement of other aging city facilities near the pier, including the Junior Seau Beach community center, the amphitheater and the bandshell.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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