Society Adventures: San Francisco Fireboat Expeditions
In May, we were excited to find ourselves with an intriguing, if last minute and slightly mysterious, opportunity to visit the small historic Fire Boat House at Pier 22 1/2 in San Francisco.
The tiny fire station was once part of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and was moved to its current home near the base of the Bay Bridge to serve as the city's only firehouse dedicated to the city's two fire boats.
The firehouse is currently under construction, but the main room, with its vintage spiral staircase, wood paneling and old bell system still in place, looks much the way it would have nearly a century ago, despite being a fully functional station.
Map of the San Francisco Shoreline inside the station
Engine Company #8 arrived at the station to take us out on the bay
The fireboat Phoenix, awaiting our arrival
Prepared for a tour of the firehouse and a peek at the two fireboats, we were surprised and delighted to be herded out onto the pier and brought on board the Phoenix for a surprise trip out on the bay.
View from the tiny top deck as we sped away from the city
Getting ready to pass under the Bay Bridge for a visit to McCovey Cove, where a ballgame was in progress
There is nothing quite like the experience of driving a boat like this on a beautiful day on the bay. We can't thank the SFFD enough.
Post-ride visit to the very hot, and very impressive engine room
Some lovely gauges in the engine room
When it was all over, we immediately went back asking for more - and last Saturday we went out for an encore visit
The fireboat Guardian, donated to the city of San Francisco by grateful residents of the Marina District after the 1989 earthquake and fire
This Saturday it was actually hot in San Francisco! The Obscura Society gathered a group of camera slinging, history loving locals and headed down to the fire boat house once again for a beautiful for day on the bay.
The Phoenix was built in 1954 and responsible for saving the Marina District after the 1989 earthquake after the failure of the primary hydrant system. Her amazing crew took us on a fantastic cruise around Alcatraz, past the SS Jeremiah O'Brian, under the bridge to McCovey Cove and up to the bay side side-walk of the ferry terminal where the engineer looked at us and said, "It's time to do some PR work" before joyfully hanging over the edge of the boat to hand out Junior Firefighter hats to the kids who came running up to the boat.
View of the wood-lined wheel house
A little saltwater
This is why you want to be an Obscura Society Field Agent - Field Agent Tre at the wheel
The tour left each of us soaked in salt water and smiling like a little kid, with a greater appreciation for the fireboat and its importance in San Francisco history and safety.
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO JOINED US!
The Obscura Society is the real-world exploration arm of Atlas Obscura We seek out secret histories, unusual access, and opportunities for our community to explore strange and overlooked places hidden all around us. Join us on our next adventure!
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Society Adventures are field reports from our favorite Obscura Society explorations - see them all here>