Beach closure lifted near Oceanside Pier, where massive fire erupted

The waters were closed between Surfrider Way, north of the pier, and Tyson Street, south of it

Fire officials provide an update on the massive blaze that destroyed a restaurant on the Oceanside Pier, April 29, 2024.
NBC 7 San Diego

Fire officials provide an update on the massive blaze that destroyed a restaurant on the Oceanside Pier, April 29, 2024.

This is NBC 7's most updated story on the Oceanside Pier fire. For previous day coverage of the fire on the Oceanside Pier, click here

A water contact closure issued due to the Oceanside Pier fire has been lifted, officials said Saturday night.

The waters were closed between Surfrider Way, north of the pier, and Tyson Street, south of it. The closure was expected to remain in effect throughout the weekend, but the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health and Quality, which has been taking water quality samples near the pier, has determined that the area is safe for water contact after bacteria levels met the state health standards.

A 500-yard zone surrounding the pier remains closed, according to the city of Oceanside's website.

A water contact closure on the beach has been lifted too, even as crews continue to monitor hotspots in the area. 

Despite the closure being lifted, NBC 7 saw city workers putting up signs in the area that said "Keep out of the waters" on Sunday morning. One worker said they were being put up out of an abundance of caution.

However, when NBC 7 returned an hour later, the signs had been taken down.

A county spokesperson told NBC 7 that local lifeguards were delayed in removing the signs, apologized for the confusion and clarified that "the water is open."

The closure was the result of a massive blaze, which erupted around 3 p.m. on Thursday, that took the work of dozens of fire crews to battle the flames by sea and land throughout the night and Friday. It wasn't until Friday night that the Oceanside Fire Department declared the fire "under control," meaning the forward progress had been stopped.

On Saturday, fire crews continued cooling hidden hotspots with water as part of overhaul work, the department said in a news release.

Debris and other potential contaminants from the burning structures were falling into the water and washing ashore just south of the pier, prompting the beach closure.

The city of Oceanside reopened beach zones closed because of contamination and debris concerns from the pier fire. NBC 7's Jeanette Quezada reports on April 27, 2024.

“I‘m seeing jellyfishes, a lot of seaweed, a lot of black burnt pieces," Brian Carrillo, a city maintenance worker, told NBC 7 on Friday.

After the fire started, burnt pieces fell from the iconic wooden structure. Two restaurants and the hammerhead section of the pier disintegrated in the heat of the fire and under the bombardment of thousands of gallons of water pumped at high velocity.

Fire officials strongly urged beachgoers to leave the burnt pieces of the pier where they were.

"Wood, when it gets burned, has charring just like a campfire, anything you might touch in a campfire with charring could be hazardous to your health," Blake Dorse, a division chief with the Oceanside Fire Department, said during a news conference on Friday night.

Not every piece was just charred wood; sharp metal and nails were also washing ashore. According to the city's website, environmental crews in protection gear are combing the beach twice a day to remove and safely dispose of the washed-up debris.

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Along the sand, NBC 7 cameras found burned pieces of the Oceanside Pier that had washed ashore.
Flames continued to burn on the Oceanside Pier from the day before on April 26, 2024. (Hunter Cochran)
Hunter Cochran
Fire crews continued containing flames on the Oceanside Pier on April 26, 2024 from a massive fire that broke out the day before. (Hunter Cochran)
Hunter Cochran
A fire that broke out on the Oceanside Pier decimated its structures as footage shows on April 26, 2024. (Hunter Cochran)
Hunter Cochran
Fire crews continue putting out flames on April 26, 2024 that broke out on the Oceanside Pier. (Hunter Cochran)

Fire officials said Friday that smoldering and flareups may be seen over the next few days and that the Oceanside Fire Department will continue to monitor conditions. The public was being asked to stay away from the area to limit smoke exposure from the smoldering material.

A temporary flight restriction was also issued over the area.

On Saturday morning, the city's Water Utilities Department delivered plywood to lay over the firebreak that was created, allowing firefighters to access and pull apart smoldering areas and extinguish them safely.

City engineers completed a preliminary assessment of the pier's pylons, placed about 35 feet below the sea floor, and found them in good condition and stable. They are beginning to discuss steps to rebuild the damaged section of the pier, the city said.

All jurisdictional partners were released as of 7 p.m. Friday. One fire engine remained at the scene on Saturday night, and overhaul activities were set to continue Sunday.

The investigation into what caused the fire and where it exactly started is still ongoing, officials said Friday night. Oceanside Fire Chief David Parsons said it could take days or even weeks before the report could be completed.

"The area of origin is in the Ruby's area or the pier area with the Ruby's nearby," Parsons said.

He added that the building — which was a Ruby's Diner before it closed three years ago — is considered a total loss.

In an earlier update, the deputy fire chief said crews saved about 90% of the pier.

The beach area near the Oceanside Pier is expected to remain closed for the weekend. NBC 7's Dave Summers took a closer look at the fire's impact on the environment on April 26, 2024.

The wooden structure was first built in 1888 but has been destroyed twice in its lifetime, once in 1890 by rough seas and, after it was rebuilt, again in 1902.

Thursday's fire is not the first building to burn on the site. In 1976, "a fire broke out in the Pier Fish Market, located halfway out on the pier and in December the Pier Cafe was completely destroyed by fire," according to the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce. The current pier was built in 1987.

There were no immediate reports of any injuries. Oceanside Mayor Esther Sanchez, who said the city would rebuild, stated at the news conference that all employees had been accounted for.

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