First-of-its-Kind Floating Fireboat Station Arrives at San Francisco’s Embarcadero


San Francisco woke up on Thursday morning to an innovative new structure along the waterfront. This highly anticipated design-build floating fireboat station was towed across the Bay from Treasure Island to the Embarcadero and anchored in place behind the historic Fire Station No. 35 at Pier 22½, nestled beside the Bay Bridge.

To reduce public impact and avoid disruption along the bustling Embarcadero, the 96-by-173-foot steel float and other marine components were delivered to Treasure Island back in January 2020, where building construction took place. The steel float, complete with its two-story building atop, was moved by tugboats into place on the Embarcadero early Thursday morning when the tides were just right.

While its arrival may appear sudden, a team of designers and builders have been working behind the scenes for four years. Swinerton-Power (the joint venture of Swinerton Builders and Power Engineering Construction Co.), Liftech Consultants Inc., and Shah Kawasaki Architects designed and built this first-of-its-kind floating fire station.

The float across the Bay represents the culmination of the creativity and persistence from the projects’ inception by the City and County of San Francisco to its completion by the Swinerton-Power joint venture design-build team.

“This is a major milestone and exemplifies San Francisco’s commitment to creating a more resilient city,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “The new Fireboat Station 35 will improve the Fire Department’s ability to meet our emergency response needs today and into the future.”

“The fireboat station has been designed for sustainability and resilience. It will rise and fall with the tides and climatic sea-level changes, always giving easy boat access to first responders,” said Alan Kawasaki, Principal of Shah Kawasaki Architects.

Simultaneous to design was the collection of permits for this first-ever type of construction project. Expanding over the water might seem like a great solution to lack of land; however, in San Francisco where encroachment into the Bay is highly protected, the permitting process was thoughtful and lengthy. The project was reviewed by 17 different agencies ranging from neighborhood advisory committees to The Port of San Francisco and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

“The entitlement process, intertwined with the unique location, required exact planning, documentation, and execution at every step of the project,” said David Mik, President of Power Engineering Construction Co. and Project Executive of the Swinerton-Power joint venture project.

The building itself also fulfills many long-awaited needs of the Fire Department. It increases accommodations for 24-hour SFFD staff, and for the first time, offers female firefighters separate and equal accommodations. It also brings all the Fire Station 35 rescue assets into a single location with immediate emergency access.

“I am proud to see Fireboat Station 35 in its permanent home position and for our team to have been a part of this exceptionally resilient collaborative project from the start,” said Terry McKellips, Vice President of Swinerton.

This project is funded by the San Francisco voters-approved 2014 Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond and is managed on behalf of the City’s Fire Department by San Francisco Public Works, working in combination with Swinerton-Power.

For project updates, visit the Swinerton-Power website and the San Francisco Public Works’ Fireboat Station No. 35 webpage.

About Swinerton
Swinerton provides commercial construction and construction management services throughout the United States and is a 100% employee-owned company. Recognized nationally since 1888, Swinerton is the preferred builder and trusted partner in every market it serves—proudly leading with integrity, passion, and excellence.

About Power Engineering Construction Co.
Power Engineering Construction Co. is an engineering and construction firm whose specialty is construction of complex marine and civil projects including piers, marinas, outfalls, deep foundations, and water treatment facilities.

About Shah Kawasaki Architects
Shah Kawasaki Architects is a community-based design firm serving the greater Bay Area and Northern California. One of the firm’s specialties is designing public safety facilities. The firm has designed over two dozen fire stations in the last 10 years.

About Liftech Consultants
Liftech Consultants is an Oakland-based structural engineer that has specialized in marine structures and industrial and commercial building design for over 50-years.

Fire Boat Station 35 is Approaching the Home Stretch

As construction of the San Francisco Fire Department emergency response facility approaches the final stretch of construction, the team has been doggedly working to achieve a major milestone: the barge floating over to its permanent location at Pier 22 ½ along The Embarcadero. Power Engineering Construction, Swinerton’s joint venture partner for this project, specializes in marine work and timed the barge’s move so that it takes place in the middle of the night when the tides are low and calm, a significant factor when coordinating a marine operation such as this.

Other work on the Fire Boat Station continues apace while docked at Treasure Island. Swinerton crews have made significant progress inside the building with drywall almost complete and taping making great headway, too. All this happening on a floating barge that, as the building is constructed, requires leveling of the barge due to the increased asymmetric weight of the installed material. Swinerton millwork is set to begin installation of the casework and specialty items like heavy duty medical lockers, scuba gear storage racks, and stainless-steel benches and the DFH team will be installing doors, frames and hardware. Power Engineering has also completed demolition of the North and South aprons which were adjacent to the existing and historic fire station at the Embarcadero and has driven piles for the apron upgrades and pier which will bridge the sidewalk to the ramp leading to the floating structure.

In addition, plumbers and electricians worked within the float installing conduit and pipe in each of the bulkheads while a third-party rescue team monitored their work within the confined spaces providing peace of mind. This was all in preparation to receive the sewage ejector, fuel oil tank and oil interceptor systems which required a lot of coordination to hoist into the hatches and set within the float compartments to connect to the utilities to the points of connection on the landside at The Embarcadero. The exterior skin is almost complete with the curtainwall and glazing and the second layer of exterior panels and steel plates being installed and painted with a coating to withstand the exposure to the marine environment. The terra cotta panels which are coming from Germany, are the final touch to the exterior skin. The facility will feature five fireboat docking stations with shore power hook ups, two jet ski lifts, two davit cranes, SCBA tank refueling, ambulance pathway and other key design points for maintaining operations during both typical emergencies and ones unique to San Francisco, such as an earthquake.

The Fire Boat Station, due to its location along The Embarcadero and its need to be on the Bay to support fire boat operations, is vulnerable to rising seas. The program of the Fire Boat Station is unique in San Francisco and the Bay Area and therefore its uninterrupted operations are critical to emergency operations on the Bay and along San Francisco’s waterfront properties and infrastructure. As a result, designing for sea level rise is a critical design component for this project and is the driving reason behind the concept of a floating structure for this emergency operations facility.