The scene on 24th Street this morning.

A fire broke out sometime after 4 a.m. Thursday in the back of 3356 24th St., critically injuring two people who live in the top-floor apartment and sending more than a dozen residents running for their lives.

In addition to the two who were critically wounded, two other residents were taken to the hospital, according to Mike Morris, the Fire Department’s assistant chief in charge. Twenty-three residents were evacuated.

Battalion Chief Kirk Richardson said one firefighter suffered smoke inhalation when he gave his mask to a resident leaving the building. A total of 94 firefighters were called in to help extinguish the fire.

“When I opened the door there was black smoke everywhere,” said Erin, who lives in the third-floor unit where the fire started at 3356, “My first reaction was get the **** out.”

Elliott C. Nathan, a muralist who lives on the second floor said, “My roommate Alice woke up and just starting shouting, ‘Get up, get out.’ There was definitely a glowing orange out the back of the building.”

Nathan, who recently completed a mural nearby on Bartlett, said he grabbed some paintings and ran.

The fire at 3356 affected two other flats in the same building, 3360 and 3358 24th St. The apartments just east of those — 3354, 3350 and 3352 24th St. — suffered smoke and water damage and were also evacuated, but there were no injuries, according to Morris.

The addresses at both buildings each lead to an apartment on a different floor. Six apartments in all were evacuated, but the greatest damage was at 3356, where the fire started, and at the two apartments in the same building — 3360 and 3358 24th St. No fire alarms sounded in the building, and firefighters did not discover any detectors at the scene, said Lieutenant Karen Karr.

At 8 a.m., collections of roommates were sitting with their belongings on 24th Street, waiting for rides or just watching firefighters bring out debris. The buses that pick up tech workers on 24th Street had been rerouted to Valencia, and 24th was blocked off from Valencia to Mission.

Elliott C. Nathan sitting with the paintings he saved.

Fire and police officers had no update on the condition of the two residents taken to San Francisco General Hospital, and said only that their condition was “critical.”

Karen Wolfe, who shares one of the apartments with five roommates, said she did not think any of the apartments had working fire alarms. “Two people downstairs smelled the fire and woke us up,” she said.

Wolfe said that in her apartment they had disconnected the smoke detector because it went off when they cooked. “It was stupid, just stupid to do that,” she said as she sat surrounded by her belongings. There didn’t seem to be as much damage in her apartment, she said.

Karen Wolfe and her cat sitting on 24th Street after the fire.

She managed to get her cat out — a fact that seemed to cheer the others around her.

Wolfe said she would go to a friend’s apartment, and Nathan also has a friend who “lives just up the street,” he said. He wondered whether disaster was following him, as he had also been in Santiago, Chile, when there was an 8.8 earthquake.

Firemen on the scene said that the cause of the fire was still being investigated. They did not know what room it started in, one of the officers said. The damage was so extensive that they were still trying to determine what had been the kitchen and what had been a bedroom, officers said.

Residents with their belongings.

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Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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  1. One of the critical people is my childhood friend who is family to me so please keep him in your prayers everyone. I love you so much Robert. I wish I could be there with you.

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  2. We will be holding a benefit fundraiser for those in critical condition at LASZLO Bar in a week and a half. Check back for details soon.

    – Peace

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  3. To my fellow Missionites, don’t risk becoming Darwin Award nominees.

    If your landlord hasn’t provided smoke detectors as they are legally required to do, buy your own and deduct it from your rent.

    As for false alarms, there are two types of smoke detectors. Ionization are cheaper ($5ish) but more prone to false alarms from cooking. If one of these is driving you nuts, swap it for a photoelectric smoke detector. They are $11.47 on Amazon.

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  4. Saint Anthony Foundation Clothing adn Furniture Deparment on 8th and Mission St. helps aiding fire victims, with needed dishes, linens, small furniture, etc. Worth to contact them.

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