Families displaced. Photo by George Lipp

A two-alarm fire broke out at a three-story residential building and a restaurant on Mission Street between 25th and 26th at around 2:30 p.m. Friday, displacing 15 residents.

At around 2:45 p.m., firefighters appeared to have the blaze under control at both a three-story residential building at 2970 Mission St. and the Old Jersusalem restaurant at 2966 Mission St.

During an initial sweep of the three-story building, firefighters found no victims with injuries, according to Lt. Jonathan Baxter, a fire department spokesman. The fire department later tweeted that the Red Cross of Northern California is working with 15 displaced residents, who will receive shelter and aid.

Mission Street between Cesar Chavez and 25th is blocked off to traffic, with buses being diverted away from 25th Street.

The scene of the fire. Photo by Annika Hom.

Raul Hernandez and Samuel Hernandez, both cooks at Old Jerusalem (they aren’t related), said that around 2:30 p.m. they ran out of the building once they learned of the fire.

At around 2:15 p.m. Laura Nevas, who lives in a building just north of 2970 Mission St., was sitting at her dining room table with her three children, including her four-month-old child, when she saw smoke, gathered her children, and left the building.

Baxter said that by about 3 p.m. that firefighters were locating the final sources of smoke. All the restaurant workers were accounted for, he said. He also said that witnesses reported fireworks in the area immediately before the fire broke out. “At this time the investigation is ongoing,” he said. “It does not mean fireworks were the cause of this fire.”

The co-owner of Old Jerusalem, Hajem Almujdad, said  “We got some damage, especially a lot of water from the firefighters’ hose, so we are going to be closed for a while”

George Lipp, a friend of Almujdad and a contributor to Mission Local, said he went later in the afternoon to take photographs of the damage.  Several times, he said, he heard family members say that they were grateful no one was injured. “‘This can all be rebuilt.’” one of them said, Lipp reported. Of those who had been displaced, another family member asked,  “How can they recover in these times?”

“I never once heard any of them say anything about their loss except to estimate how quickly they could reopen the restaurant,” Lipp wrote.

Hajem Almujdad reviewing the damage. Photo by George Lipp.

Pedro Gil, who owns Casa Guadalupe, a bodega across the street from Old Jerusalem, said he was fixing an ATM when he was alerted of a fire across the street and he called 911. He said he saw 20 feet of smoke rising from the roof of Old Jerusalem. But he said he wasn’t scared. “It was just smoke, and I didn’t see too many flames,” he said.

He did not hear fireworks before the fire started.

Jose Rivera returned to his apartment on 2972 Mission St. after grocery shopping at Casa Guadalupe. Shortly after, he heard his apartment ring and some neighbors yelling, “Fire! Fire!” Rivera tried to quickly grab important residential documents and get his two daughters and wife out of the building.

“The smoke was so strong when we were leaving, it was hard to breathe,” Rivera said. “I was scared. I was with my two daughters when the neighbors alerted us.”

He said he believes that the apartments above may have partially caught fire because of its proximity to the restaurant. He saw a lot of smoke, but no flames.

The extent of the damage is unclear. The walls of the ground-floor nail salon at 2970 Mission St. are completely black and covered in soot. And firefighters were collecting large debris from the roof of Old Jerusalem using a crane. Those who were directly affected were cordoned off and talking with first responders.

“It’s really sad,” Rivera said motioning to the scene.

Damage on the roof of Old Jerusalem’s neighbor. Photo by George Lipp.
The back deck of Old Jerusalem’s neighbor. Photo by George Lipp.

Check back for updates. 

Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

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7 Comments

  1. In case Hajem Almujdad reads this: We absolutely love Old Jerusalem and its staff. You guys have some of the best dishes out there and I hope you find the strength and courage to clean up, rebuild, and whip out some amazing hummus. Thank You for all the good food and please let the community know if we can help out somehow.

    1. Is there a go fund me set up? We would love to contribute. Thank you guys for catering my son’s event in January. We think you’re the greatest!
      Laura

  2. Old Jerusalem is our favorite restaurant in SF.
    We love the food, staff, outside patio.
    Please reopen!
    We LOVE You.

  3. This article seems to bury the underlying cause and effect sequence.

    Some jerk thought it would be fun to play with fireworks and now 15 people don’t have a home, and a family’s business is heavily damaged and they’ll likely struggle to find a way to rebuild.

    Illegal fireworks aren’t an inanimate external factor like an earthquake or a hurricane. Someone made a choice to do this and now these people are left to pick up the pieces.

    Hopefully that person is forced to pay some sort of restitution (either through money or work) but I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Today the property management company of the mixed use resedential building adjacent to the restaurant arrived and informed all the occupants both the residential and the business on the ground floor that they had to leave immediately and that all locks were being changed. They gave everyone2-5 hours to leave, leaving some residences locked out and unable to gain entry to retrieve any belongings. they mentioned the building being retagged however did not produce any documents. The fire was on Friday and this is Monday and they show up now and give everyone a few hours?? Can anyone assist us if this is even legal? Now we have way more than the 15 displaced initially and a few businesses.

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