Firefighters battled a four-alarm fire at the large three-story building that occupies the corner of 22nd and Mission Street for more than five hours Wednesday evening. They continued to work past midnight after the flames had been contained, but not completely extinguished.
As of 8:50 p.m., there was at least one confirmed death, an adult male. Fire chief Joanne Hayes White said that the cause of death had not been confirmed. At least six additional people were being treated at an area hospital for smoke inhalation and burn wounds and more than 40 residents were displaced.
The Mission Market and a corner Popeyes dominate the ground floor of the three-story building, more than a dozen offices occupy the second floor and dozens of tenants occupied the apartments on the third floor. Many of the tenants have been in the building for years. The building is next to the new luxury high-rise, Vida that has only recently opened.
Janet Kornblum, a witness, took one of the first videos of the fire, which is time stamped at 6:48 p.m. In it, flames flare out of the upper windows, and it is clear that the fire was already under way and fierce.
While it began closer to the 22nd Street side of the building, the blaze quickly spread and escalated. According to Hayes White, the fire ran through the building’s attic, which enabled it to spread quickly throughout the third floor.
It was “Terrible,” said Kornblum. There were people trying to escape. “A boy on the fire escape with a dog and people just standing around recording,” she said.
“I escorted a bleeding man to firefighters,” she added. “No one thought to help.”
Chief Hayes White told reporters that firefighters had made at least 11 rescues, several from the fire escapes facing Mission Street and several more from the building’s internal staircase. Firefighters “knocked on every door,” said Hayes White.
Kornblum saw one victim put into an ambulance. It “seemed like he was in shock,” she said. “It was very very scary. Clearly the fire started in someone’s bedroom.I watched the kid with his dog … get onto the fire escape and get out of the building but I do wonder if there were other people in there”
The Red Cross set up a temporary unit for victims of the fire at City College’s Mission Campus. According to chief Hayes White, roughly 40 people have been displaced by the blaze.
Yanira Hernandez, one of the displaced, told Mission Local that she lives in unit 300 and then corrected herself, saying “I used to live there.” Her husband was one of the residents hospitalized for smoke inhalation. She and her husband have called the building at 22nd and Mission home for 20 years. She says she has no idea where she’ll go after this.
District 9 Supervisor David Campos was on scene at the temporary Red Cross center.
“We’re working with the Red Cross to make sure everyone’s basic needs are met,” said Campos. “We are working with the city very closely to make sure everyone has a place to sleep tonight, we’re working to find them permanent housing.”
By 7:33 p.m. the whole upstairs was filled with smoke. A parapet caught fire on the second floor as flames moved toward 22nd Street. Pieces of the building fell from the edge of the roof as news crews got doused with the water. At one point, cheers went up as a crew from the ground aimed directly at the flames. Moments later a window belonging to the corner unit was smashed out and smoke billowed from inside.
Flames dancing on the edge of the roof were beaten back at around 7:45 p.m., but the fire continued to advance toward the corner of the building where Popeyes stands.
At 8 p.m., the police scanner reported that officials at the site were calling to clear the entire building. Firefighters were ordered to exit the building and fight the fire from the exterior for fear that the roof would collapse.
At 8:30 p.m., the flames seem to have subsided somewhat and firefighters were dousing the building with water and crews were back working on the roof.
Chief Hayes White told reporters at around 9 p.m. that the fire had not been contained. Arson investigators were on the scene and will be conducting an investigation. An initial statement by police department spokesperson Officer Grace Gatpandan late Wednesday night suggested that there was little reason to suspect foul play or arson.
As of 9:50 p.m., the flames continued and black smoke billowed above the building. Some witnesses thought they saw the roof collapse.
By 10:30 p.m. the flames were mostly contained, but chief Hayes White told Mission Local that firefighters were still battling what was proving to be a highly stubborn blaze.
In September, a five-alarm fire destroyed a building on Mission Street, only a block away from Wednesday’s fire.
Zachary Crockett has set up a fund for the displaced families at gofundme.
Editor’s Note: We may be a little slower getting out the news tomorrow. Mission Local’s offices were on the second floor.
The first video is from Janet Kornblum and was taken at 6:58 p.m.
— Mission Local (@MLNow) January 29, 2015
This is a breaking story and we will be updating soon.