SFFD battles flames atop 1450 Valencia Street. By Greta Mart.

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.

Donation, such as blankets and clothing, are currently being accepted at Rock Bar.

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Greta Mart is a Bay Area-based newspaper reporter and freelance writer, and currently a student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. From 2005 to 2012 she was a staff reporter at two community newspapers in WA and CA, and has contributed to several Bay Area and Seattle area newspapers, as well as Pacific Yachting and Italy's Gulliver and La Republicca's D magazines. Greta holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and studied history at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. She lives aboard her sailboat at the Berkeley Marina.

Alexander Mullaney is a journalist and publisher in San Francisco. In 2008, he founded The Ingleside Light, a monthly neighborhood newspaper with a circulation of 10,000. In The Ingleside Light he reports on community affairs and publishes the work of both local and student journalists and photographers. He sits on the board of directors of the Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse, the Ocean Avenue Association, and the San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association. In the summer of 2013, Mullaney organized and managed two community journalism courses for youth with City College of San Francisco and the non-profit Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse. The pilot program paid students stipends, offered both high school and college credit, and published their articles and photographs in The Ingleside Light. He intends to find funding to offer the program in 2014. Mullaney holds a bachelors degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University. He is studying multimedia and longform writing at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He plans to use his time at graduate school to expand his reportage to produce stories for the public good.

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  1. This fire (and the displacement of tenants) is one of a series of recent fires that have occurred on Valencia St. (and on this block) and in the Mission. When (if) the building are rebuilt, they are to code.
    It is fair to comment on the age of these wooden 100-year-old structures and on their outdated electrical systems. It is also fair to note that structures built after 1979, to modern building codes, are exempt from rent control. The problem is how to address the need to provide safe housing AND maintain neighborhood character. To my mind, this could include raising rents in order to finance safe housing. I prefer this to more displacement.
    It wouldn’t hurt to revisit the issue of the post-1979 exemption, either.

    1. Where exactly did it say that the displaced residents were tenants? I must have missed that.

      Even if they were tenants, those units may have been condos, in which case rent control (mostly) doesn’t apply.

      I do not believe that the post-1979 exemption can be changed, because of the State’s Costa-Hawkins Act, but am willing to be corrected on that.

  2. I lived in 1448 for three years and always thought that building was a fire waiting to happen. Very sorry for the current tenants and all those displaced by the fire.

      1. Sadly one of the reasons for deferred maintenance is the fact that a property owner can spend a lot of money on a building and then not be able to recoup that investment.

        Post 1979 buildings, condos and single family homes that are rented out are generally maintained much better because they are exempt from rent control, and an owner can recoup the costs of improvements thru higher rents.

        In theory that is possible with rent control thru passthroughs, but it is a bureaucratic nightmare to petition for it, and the low-paid still get off.

        Rent control has many unintended consequences and this is one of them.

        1. How do you explain the catastrophic fires this year in Redwood City? No rent control there.

          You have no clue as to the cause of the fire this week on Valencia unless you are a fire inspector. And I doubt you knew the condition of those buildings unless you lived there or own them.

          Somehow, you blame rent control.

          1. I never said that either of the two recent fires in the Mission district were attributable to rent control.

            I was specifically addressing Mark’s more general complaint about the poor way that many rental buildings are maintained, and I was suggesting a financial imperative that may inform that situation.

  3. I have my acupuncture, craniosacral therapy and herbal medicine practice at EHS studio. The fire didn’t damage the studio’s attic (the studio doesn’t have an attic) — it damaged our clinic space, the Wellness Clinic. I will need to temporarily find another space to see my patients now…

      1. From my window, I saw the smoke start to billow down the street and realized it wasn’t the fog rolling in. Just as I went to my window to take a closer look, I heard sirens and saw the SFFD trucks and spectators start to gather on Valencia. The streets were eventually blocked off as well. Being pregnant, I didn’t go outside to get a closer look because I didn’t want to be exposed to smoke and was sure to keep my windows closed so smoke didn’t fill my house, which remained smoke-free. The Mobile Air truck was right in front of my building and I saw the firefighters come back and forth filling their air tanks. One of the Hose trucks was hooked up to the hydrant right in front of Clooney’s.