60 Evacuated in San Francisco Fire


 
 

Wyatt BuchananMatthai Kuruvila | | Tuesday, March 18, 2008


SAN FRANCISCO -- A fast-moving fire that began in a Mission District apartment building spread to an adjoining building and prompted the evacuation of nearly an entire San Francisco block Monday night.

The four-alarm blaze on Valencia Street between 25th and 26th streets burned for nearly two hours, displacing at least 59 people from their homes.

The fire began at 1470 Valencia St., a four-story apartment building, at around 5:45 p.m.

"I heard this popping noise," said Mark Schiffner, who lived in a 25-unit building next door to 1470. When he looked, "the flames were already coming into our building. I ran out. I didn't grab a thing."

His apartment building at 1476 Valencia was also ravaged by the fire.

"I've got my wallet and I've got my keys, but the keys are useless," he said. "I survived, but had this happened in the middle of the night, I'd probably be dead."

The fire began with flames whipping out of the back windows of 1470 Valencia - the back of the building facing Poplar Street. The flames leaped into the upper floors of 1476 Valencia, another four-story apartment building. Firefighters arrived and began helping people out of the burning buildings.

A few doors away, at the corner of Valencia and 26th streets, the popular Dovre Club was packed with St. Patrick's Day revelers who continued celebrating as if nothing was amiss.

By 6:30 p.m., however, the Fire Department evacuated the Dovre Club and other buildings on the block between 25th and 26th streets out of safety concerns.

People scrambled outside with whatever they could grab. Some stood on streets with birdcages.

Kathleen Lawton, who lives on nearby South Van Ness, couldn't believe how rapidly the fire moved.

"I've never seen anything spread so fast," she said. "I saw just a little bit of smoke and then it just went up."

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said 130 firefighters were called to the scene - and one was sent to the hospital as a result of smoke inhalation. At least one other person, a woman who appeared conscious and alert, was loaded into an ambulance at the scene.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Hayes-White cited the density of buildings and their materials for why the fire was so fast and big.

"The challenge we face is the wood frame construction," said Hayes-White. "It burns hot and fast."

She said that the common walls of buildings were also a factor in how quickly the fire spread to the other building.

The most intense flames appeared to be on Poplar Street, which runs parallel to Valencia Street and behind the buildings.

When the fire first began, the flames and heavy smoke poured out from the back of 1470 Valencia - onto Poplar. But fire trucks pulled up in front of Valencia. One eventually pulled into Poplar.

At 7:30 p.m., firefighters got the fire under control and hundreds of spectators gathered nearby on the streets cheered.

Two cats were killed in the fire, but firefighters rescued two other cats and a couple of pet rats.

American Red Cross Bay Area spokeswoman Melanie Sanders said a temporary shelter has been set up in the Mission District for people displaced by the fire.

She said the number of displaced residents may rise.

"It could be more than that as folks return home this evening and discover what happened," she said.


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Airway and Respiratory, Operations and Protcols

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Progress

Follow in the footsteps of these inspirational leaders of EMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Community Paramedicine Expanding in Maine

Eight departments receive a grant for use towards the new program.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

New Ambulance, Fire Engine Approved for Illinois Department

Officials approve new purchases for Bloomington.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Alabama Officials Worry over Ambulance Coverage

County officials work to find best solution.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Car Crashes into Texas Ambulance

Ambulance hit while responding to a call.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

California Beach Lightning Strike MCI

More than a dozen injured in Venice Beach lighting strike.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


More Product Videos >