Residents of two Valencia Street apartment flats lost their homes Monday in a three-alarm fire that began sometime after noon and, assisted by brisk winds, spread quickly to adjacent buildings. Roughly 100 firefighters managed to contain the blaze by 1:30 p.m.
No one was injured, said Mindy Talmadge, the spokesperson from the San Francisco Fire Department, who spoke to reporters at the scene.
Talmadge said that after reports of the fire were called in at 12:34 p.m., first responders escorted “about six or seven people” from the burning building at 1448-1450 Valencia St. where the fire started. A garage-like structure in the rear of the Valencia apartments was also damaged. Its entrance is from the alleyway on Poplar Street.
Police and fire personnel also evacuated at least six buildings on Valencia and roped off the entire block of Poplar Street between 25th and 26th streets and Valencia Street between 24th and 26th streets.
A large crowd of spectators watched as flames erupted from the roof of the Valencia Street residence and a smoky haze filled the downwind streets.
“It was really rolling when they got here so whatever [the cause] was it took off really quickly,” Talmadge said. “When units arrived they almost immediately went to a three alarm … [crews] went to work really quickly and were able to prevent it from extending to the buildings on either side and the building behind it.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Flames spread from the fire’s origin at 1448-1450 Valencia St. to the EHS Pilates studio next door at 1452 Valencia St., damaging the studio’s attic.
A strong breeze blew through the Mission during the fire, prompting the fire department to dispatch a large number of personnel and equipment to the scene.
“With this wind, you need it,” Talmadge said.
Firefighters set up six ladders providing roof access along the north side of the affected block while another crew went inside carrying chainsaws and long crowbars.
About 30 minutes after the fire started, Red Cross staff and volunteers arrived on the scene to assist displaced residents, setting up an evacuation station at Muddy Waters Coffee Shop at 1304 Valencia St.
“We’re here and we’re helping with shelter, food, beverages and emotional support,” Red Cross spokesperson Jennifer Sturn said. “Affected residents can talk to client case workers.”
Newly-arrived San Francisco resident Denise Hunley, 36, who lives across the street, said she had just taken a shower when she smelled smoke coming in through her open front window.
When she looked out and saw the building across the street in flames, she said she called her roommates and asked if they wanted her to grab any belongs in case of an evacuation.
“My first thought was I hope my neighbors are OK,” Hunley said as she watched the firefighters at work. “I’m new to the City and it was a little scary, all these little wooden boxes waiting to go up in flames.
“I’m surprised our smoke detectors didn’t go off, there was so much smoke. I’m really impressed [with the firefighters], they did a great job. I feel very safe.”
Another resident who lives nearby added, “I was just thinking I hope it doesn’t spread.”
Richard Goss, 57, a patient at San Francisco Teen Challenge, was lying in bed when the fire broke out. Goss, along with over a dozen other patients were asked to evacuate.
Michael Erickson, 23, a staff intern at San Francisco Teen Challenge, was walking through the facility when he opened a back door and saw the fire. He soon evacuated the building.