The Rolling Stock tire shop on the corner of 16th and Shotwell streets was devastated by flames that broke out around 8 a.m. this morning, sending up a dark plume of smoke that was visible city-wide and displacing 23 people, according to the Red Cross. No injuries were reported.
The fire is the latest in a string that has hit the Mission in recent months. The neighborhood has seen at least eight residential fires in the neighborhood since the beginning of the year.
The three-alarm fire was under control as of 10:30 a.m. with crews retracting many of their water hoses, but firefighting continued into the afternoon. Assistant Chief Dave Franklin said the fire department received a call shortly before 8 a.m. about smoke in the building, and was on scene battling the fire for more than two hours.
“At about 7:40 a.m. we got a report of smoke in the building at 16th and Shotwell,” he said. “There was heavy fire and smoke and [firefighters] opened up the building and attacked the fire from the exterior and from above.” Firefighters could be seen battling the flames from the roof of the building next door throughout the morning, and Franklin said some 110 firefighters were at the scene.
Franklin said the roof of the tire shop collapsed and that the residential apartment building next door suffered fire damage within the walls and in its attic. That building was deemed unsafe for residents by the Department of Building Inspection shortly before noon. The tire shop will likely be marked unsafe, Franklin said, and other surrounding buildings were also temporarily evacuated.
As to why so many fires had hit the Mission lately, Franklin said “The Mission is an old wooden neighborhood in this city.” He added that fire department personnel will likely be on site until tomorrow.
The roof of the Rolling Stock tire shop at 2860 16th St. had partially collapsed, though nobody was inside the building. The residential apartment building next door at 2878 16th St. was also evacuated, and firefighters could be seen up on the roof battling the flames. Its rear units windows were smashed out and its walls were blackened with fire damage.
The Red Cross opened an evacuation center at 520 South Van Ness for those affected by the fire by 10 a.m., and response leader John Laxson said 23 people had been displaced from the green apartment building next door to the tire shop.
“We’re trying to make sure that they’re warm and comfortable and have good and a place to be together as a family,” Laxson said, adding that he hoped to have shelters or hotel rooms for everyone to stay in, but that “the city is getting more expensive by the week.”
Residents of the next adjacent residential building had been temporarily evacuated and Laxson said they were all expected to be able to return once firefighting activity ceased – by early afternoon some tenants could be seen re-entering that building.
Cynthia Lopez, who lives in the non-damaged residential building with her family, said her whole family was evacuated and that she couldn’t believe how many fires had hit the Mission recently.
“This is the second time there is a fire in the span of a year,” she said, though there have been many more. “We were all evacuated from the 6-unit building next to the auto shop, four adults and two children in my apartment, but a lot of people live there. Everyone was evacuated but there are still pets inside.”
Foxy Linzmier, one of those residents with a pet, says she hasn’t seen her cat since the fire started. “I can’t find my cat, I’m waiting to see if [it] comes running out,” she said.
Linzmier says her friend “lost her entire house” in the Middletown fires. “So it thought, ‘Okay I guess now it’s my turn,’” she said.
Linzmier was sleeping in her unit, oblivious to the fire until police came into the building and woke her and a friend up. “I had earplugs in and I didn’t hear sirens or anything,” she said.
Standing on the corner of 16th and Shotwell looking at the tire fire, she had managed to bring out a large trunk and stuff it hurriedly with her passport, a computer, stereo, and her mother’s rings. “I mean, what do you save in a fire?” she said.
Jim Albera, who owns the building that houses Rolling Stock, said he got the call about the fire at 8:30 a.m. As it happens, today is his 60th birthday.
“At least nobody got hurt,” he said, “but that’s a hell of a birthday present.”
The building has been in his family since 1960 and used to be a stable. Albera, who now lives down the peninsula but worked in San Francisco for decades, said the business owner of the Rolling Stock tire shop, who did not wish to speak to the press, is distressed about the damage.
“He’s devastated. His whole livelihood is in there,” he said, adding that the building would have to be torn down and that he would start fencing it off tonight.
“Another historic building bites the dust in San Francisco,” Albera added.
10-year-old Giovanni, who lives above the Poc-Chuc restaurant two doors down from the tire shop, said he was was having breakfast with his family there when his dog started barking and they noticed the fire. “We wouldn’t have noticed it if my dog didn’t start barking,” he said. “My dog saved us.”
Oscar Lepe, who lives on the second floor of the green apartment building that suffered fire damage, said he was thankful for the concrete structure of the Rolling Stock tire shop.
“The beauty of that building is that it is basically concrete, which probably helped to save our building,” he said, explaining that the first-floor wall between the tire shop and his apartment complex was entirely concrete and may have prevented the fire from spreading to more residential units.
The blaze was massive when it started, sending a dark plume of smoke visible throughout San Francisco and causing an intense heat, according to bystanders. One said that the fire quickly grew in size within the first 15 minutes, speculating that the size must have been due to the tires catching on fire.
Fire in the Mission, SF pic.twitter.com/cH1ldX030H
— Miha Rebernik (@mihar) November 8, 2015
— Nina Gannes (@ninagannes) November 8, 2015
Footage available for license. Rolling Stock tire shop up in flames. pic.twitter.com/hI2ICFuQ9t
— DB (@BoyerDina) November 8, 2015