The fire at the corner building on Mission and 22nd just before midnight on Sunday. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros

A 3-alarm fire broke out at the previously fire-damaged building at Mission and 22nd streets shortly after 11 p.m on Sunday night. No injuries have been reported beyond some cuts and bruises among firefighters.

By 1:20 a.m., the fire was reported under control. Residents of the adjacent building on 22nd Street, which suffered serious water damage after last year’s fire, were told that they would be able to return to their homes despite broken windows and water damage caused by the fire fighting.

The corner building has been abandoned and decaying since a fire on January 28, 2015, that apparently stemmed from an electrical fault inside a third floor wall. One man died and more than 60 residents were displaced in that fire, which caused serious damage to the building and led the city to condemn it in February.

Since then, neighbors have reported taggers going onto the roof via the fire escape and scaffolding that surrounds the building. Others said they’ve seen squatters in the derelict site in the past.

“My belief is that squatters were in there and that they caused the heat source. Of course it’s still under investigation,” said Division Chief Kirk Richardson. No one was in the building when the fire started, he added.

Richardson said the fire originated in the leftmost room on the third floor and that it was possibly caused by cooking. Several bystanders reported seeing a rectangular hole cut out of the plywood board covering the window of that room, with one man saying that hole had been there for months.

Michael Horta, a fire investigator on scene, said the hole that bystanders reported was “consistent with homeless living.” He said a full investigation would follow but that squatters were the likely cause.

The rectangular hole reported by several bystanders, seen before firefighters arrived. Photo courtesy Douglas Hilsinger.

A bartender and some patrons of the Make Out Room on 22nd Street were outside smoking when they heard a disturbance from the building.

“I heard a loud bang and then the top left corner, within a few minutes, it was engulfed in flame,” said Brendan Hagarty, a bartender at the Make Out Room, later describing the sound as a “little explosion.”

Hagarty went across the street to warn the residents of the adjacent building, though nobody came out at first. He then called 911.

Atom Ellis was standing outside of the Make Out Room with a friend at 11:25 p.m. when he said he noticed billowing smoke and then a “glow in the far left window” on the building’s third floor.

A woman who gave her name as Kate said that she was inside of Doc’s Clock on Mission Street, across the street from the burning building, and became aware of the fire when a “burning smell” filled the bar.

“I ran outside and saw smoke billowing, but it wasn’t immediately clear where it was coming from. It seemed like it mostly engulfed one side of the building,” she said.

By 11:45 p.m. more than a hundred people stood on 22nd Street across from the building and watched the flames advance. The fire spread quickly through the third floor, engulfing several rooms in a matter of minutes as onlookers shouted at firefighters to be careful of falling debris.

“Watch out!” some screamed as blackened chunks of the roof fell onto the street, scraping the firefighters climbing up the fire escape.

Others were irked at what they said was a slow pace of firefighting, yelling “Why did you wait so long?” when hoses were first deployed.

One woman yelled “This is not a shitshow, this is a fucking neighborhood!” at the onlookers taking photos and video of the fire, breaking down in tears as the fire continued to sweep through the third floor.

A 22nd Street resident who gave only his first name, Avi, remarked on the frequency of fires in the Mission District.

“My block has been on fire a lot lately. First Boogaloo’s and now this,” he said.

Disclosure: Mission Local was a commercial tenant for a year and half at the building discussed in this article.

Firefighters using hose on the midnight fire at Mission and 22nd late Sunday night. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.
Photo by Joe Rivano Barros

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  1. If I was that property owner, I’d want to sell and take off. If it’s such a nuisance, tear it down. I can’t see how it’s structurally sound anymore anyway.

  2. The owner let it rot for over a year until the damage was irreparable and now this. Does the owner have la duty to prevent blight and to properly secure the property ??

  3. Of course, once again, it will be blamed on the “San Francisco Homeless Problem”. For many years San Francisco as been looked down on for not being able to handle ‘our’ homeless. We are the butt of many jokes, and made to appear imcompetent. And that is part of the problem, because ‘our’ homeless are not really only ‘our’ problem.

    Most of them are from SOMEWHERE ELSE, because other cities do not want to deal with them, so the homeless are given a Greyhound bus ticket and sent here, or to a few other choice locations, such as Las Vegas, Reno, Los Angelos… thus the original places have NO homeless problem. So they can feel smug and superiour, as we try to deal with the expense and logistics of the overwhelming homeless ‘immigration’.

    When are people going to realise that this is NOT just a San Francisco Homeless problem, its a NATIONAL homeless problem? Is there no way to bill the cities where these people are from for their costs, to reduce the enormous expense of housing them? (The criteria to determine who is from somewhere else might be determined by where they were born, or where they were married, or where they last attended school, or where they last worked, or where they worked the longest. If none of those are San Francisco, these are not San Francisco’s homeless.

    And if that is so, perhaps someone who is more politically adept than I am can present this to national organizations, senators, house representative, and any other connected government resources to get federal help to pay for all of the nation’s homeless who are gathered here but are not from here, because we are not heartless enough to just ship them off t another city.

  4. Just waiting for David Campos to say he never expected something like a second arson fire to break out at this building or that there was anything he and this three staffers could do to secure the location and prevent further problems. Looking forward, what can we expect from Campos about this sad situation? Probably him saying “I’m looking at drafting legislation . . . “

  5. Thank you so much for covering this. How the hey is this building on fire again, especially after the last few days of rain? My heart goes out to everyone who was evacuated and especially the original residents.