A two-alarm fire broke out at the corner of Mission and Cesar Chavez streets at 3:24 a.m. Thursday morning, displacing 10 residents from their four-unit building. The fire originated at the Palace Steak House restaurant on the ground floor of the building, which will be closed for the foreseeable future.
“An electrical fire [broke out] at the back of the restaurant,” said restaurant owner Manny Torres. The restaurant suffered extensive fire and water damage, he said, and it could be a year before he re-opens. “Everything is black and burned and destroyed in water… Pretty much I’m going to be closed for a year, but I just opened a new [restaurant] so it’s all good.”
Not so for the residents. Utilities have been shut off to the 3047 Mission St. building, displacing its 10 residents until building inspectors complete their investigation. The two back units suffered water and fire damage that the landlord says will require renovation, and tenants there may be out for a year or more.
“It’s inevitable,” said Fernando Chamorro of his displacement, “because the fire was through the roof.”
Firefighters arrived shortly after 3:30 a.m. and did not immediately see the fire because it came from the rear of the restaurant. Once they started battling the blaze, the fire ran up a wall and onto the roof, prompting the second alarm.
Firefighters on site also rescued two people trapped by the heavy smoke.
“When Engine 7 arrived on the scene, they saw two people trapped on the second floor balcony,” said fire department spokesperson Mindy Talmadge, saying they may have been prevented from exiting through the building by the smoke. “They laddered to the balcony and brought them down that way.”
Chamorro and his wife were asleep when they heard fire alarms and awoke to see smoke in the hallway. He and another resident helped his wife — who has pain in her leg and cannot walk well on her own — down the stairs and out of the building.
On Thursday morning, both were allowed back into their unit to gather belongings to store away, but had little idea where they would go next.
“Where can we live? What services are available to us?” Chamorro asked. “We are in limbo.”
Giulia Pantalone, a resident of one of the unaffected front units, said she was also woken up by “not terribly loud” fire alarms.
“We opened up the door and there was smoke in the hallway,” Pantalone said. “We went out the back, which was slightly less smoky.”
Residents were told to go across the street to the Walgreens and wait while firefighters battled the blaze, which lasted until 4:26 a.m. Pantalone’s unit suffered no damage “other than from the rain when they left the windows open,” though she did say her apartment had a “smoky odor.”
“It’s going to be habitable, it’s just a matter of days and weeks,” she said while gathering up her belongings.
The fire is under investigation, but residents said firefighters on site told them nothing appeared suspicious. Landlord Enrique Rodriguez said he has already filed a claim with his insurance and is working “as quickly as [he] can” on getting everyone back into the building.
For the back two units, which house some four people, it will likely be some time. Rodriguez said he has “no idea” when exactly, though he promised that “everyone will be able to move back in.”