After last night's fire on Mission Street - lots of standing around.

On Mission Street, the brisk morning wind sent drifts of charred paper floating down to settle on the building contractors, firemen, insurance adjusters and former tenants surrounding number 3212. The cause of the fire remains unknown, but is not believed to be suspicious, according to Pat Gardner of the San Francisco Fire Department. The fireman who was injured last night after falling nearly eight feet from a ladder to the ground remains at SF General Hospital, and is expected to recover completely.

The Bay Area chapter of the American Red Cross typically provides hotel vouchers for people displaced by fires in San Francisco. Of the 12 people left temporarily homeless by this fire, only two ultimately required housing assistance, a Red Cross representative said.

“Our house basically doesn’t have a roof,” said Susanna Myerseth, who, along with a few other tenants, had returned to scavenge her belongings. She suspected that it would be quite some time before she could move in again, but she seemed cheerful for someone who had just spent the night at her parents’ house with all of her roommates. Behind her, a videographer for Telemundo adjusted her camera in order to be out of the path of another snowfall of burned debris, and two contractors stood, arms folded, waiting for the OK to board up the building.

It was a tough fire to put out, said Gardner. The buildings are oriented east to west, and a brisk wind was blowing in from the west, right through the building’s back windows. The fire spread across the roof and dropped into the two-inch gap between 3212 and its neighbor, 3208, where the force of the wind pushing through such a small space acted like a bellows, keeping the fire alive at ground level even as the firefighters struggled to put it out on multiple floors.

If you’re going to put out a fire, Gardner recommends putting it out on a nice foggy night with a good inversion layer. As it was, firefighters went in through the front door of 3212, tore out the sheetrock and cut through the siding with a chainsaw to create enough space to get hoses into the crevice between the buildings.

When asked why they did this in the building that was most on fire rather than the building that was less on fire, Gardner replied that the Fire Department has a policy of trying to cause as little damage to buildings as possible. When asked how he felt about a policy that put firefighters at greater risk in order to protect buildings, Gardner replied, “It’s a calling. All those cliches that you hear are true.”

“Sirens,” he said. “I hear them, and it sounds like music.”

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Heather Smith covers a beat that spans health, food, and the environment, as well as shootings, stabbings, various small fires, and shouting matches at public meetings. She is a 2007 Middlebury Fellow in Environmental Journalism and a contributor to the book Infinite City.

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  1. Why don’t you put a complete address or cross street anywhere?

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    1. They have the house number, 3212, and the first couple of words of the article say it’s on Mission Street.

      Previous entries have stated that it was at Mission and Valencia.. though I guess you’d have to have been following the story to know that.

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