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New Rescue Center Opens at SFO

The new Marine Emergency Response Facility will allow firefighters and rescue crews to reach an incident in the water near the airport.

The San Francisco Fire Department opened a new marine rescue station near San Francisco International Airport Thursday that will drastically reduce response times to emergencies on the Bay.

The new Marine Emergency Response Facility will allow firefighters and rescue crews to reach an incident in the water near the airport -- such as a downed aircraft, a stranded windsurfer or a distressed boat -- in about five minutes, airport Director John Martin said. Previously, the fire department's nearest waterborne units were housed at Oyster Point in South San Francisco, about a 25-minute boat ride to the north, Martin said.

The facility -- the first of its kind at a major airport on the West Coast -- houses a variety of water rescue craft, including a 44-foot Moose Boat, a 27-foot Boston Whaler, an 18-foot Zodiac and a pair of Jet Skis.

"More simply put, we call it the first fire boathouse at an airport," Martin said.

Under the roar of airplanes and windy conditions, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee toured the facility and boarded the state-of-the-art Moose Boat, joking that his nickname in college used to be 'Moose.' The new facility and its watercraft will provide "an extra level of safety for anybody in the Bay near SFO," Lee said.

"I have to say, we'll be ready for anything that occurs," he said.

San Francisco fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White called the new facility "cutting edge" and said it will be an extremely important addition to the department's ability to assist the U.S. Coast Guard in responding to water-related incidents. "We'll be able to get where we need to be so much sooner," Hayes-White said.

--Bay City News

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