Daniella Tavake, who lives above Taqueria Los Coyotes, woke up to the smell of smoke. When she opened her eyes, that’s all she saw. On Thursday at 12:30 a.m., she used the feel of the bedroom walls to guide her to the fire escape outside her second floor window. From there, a fireman told her to exit through the front door on 16th Street.
The debris fire that broke out on Wiese Street Thursday entered Taqueria Los Coyotes on 16th Street, displacing the 22 tenants in the three-story building at 3032 16th St. and closing the taqueria for at least the day. Two tenants went to SF General Hospital for smoke inhalation, but were expected to recover, according to the Chronicle.
The San Francisco Fire Department is still investigating, but suspect that trash and debris on Wiese Street caught fire and spread to the building. Some neighbors believe it may have been started by one of the many unhoused residents, some of whom hang out on Wiese Street.
“It was right under my unit,” Tavake recalled, teary-eyed. She exited down the stairs, and soon the tenants below her followed, most of whom huddled on the block adjacent to Taqueria Los Coyotes.
“I just stood on the corner by myself and cried,” Tavake added. “It was freezing.”
The firemen contained the fire by 2 a.m., and red-tagged the building, marking it uninhabitable. About 13 units were damaged, and Taqueria Los Coyotes suffered “moderate to major” damage, the fire department told The Chronicle.
A few hours later, Tavake said, members of the Red Cross came and handed out blankets and gift cards amounting to $515 for hotels, which she expects to last a few days.
Although the fire did not enter Tavake’s part of the building, she said the fire department explained the building condition made it unlikely residents could return. Tavake worried that she’d lost all her items, including multiple brand new wigs she had recently purchased. She brushed a magenta strand from one she donned Thursday morning. “I’ve lost everything,” she said.
As she pointed out the site of the blaze, a man arrived and hugged her shoulder. He did not provide his name, but claimed to “work the bathroom” across 16th Street from the taqueria and apparently saw the flames Thursday morning. “I kept saying, how did it get so far up?”
“There’s just so much trash,” Tavake shrugged.
A few doors down at the store Dollar & Up, another tenant who declined to give her name sat and rested off to the side. She said she was staying in a hotel, and didn’t want to talk. “I’m sorry, I haven’t slept all night,” she said, putting her chin in her hands.
The owner of Dollar & Up, Jon, said some tenants texted him early Thursday morning with video footage of the fire. From the footage, a fireman could be seen on a ladder attending to a smoking window on Wiese Street.
“I think the fire went from the side to the taqueria,” Jon said.
Among the 22 displaced were 13 members of the Family of Friends Sober Living Network, a citywide sober-living transitional housing support system administered by the Recovery Survival Network or RSN 2000.
Lou Gordon, executive director of RSN 2000, later told Mission Local that one Network member he spoke to after the fire told him she just wanted “to go back home.”
“It’s heartbreaking, what it’s caused,” Gordon later told Mission Local. “You have no idea.”
Gordon said the Red Cross had been relocating building residents to other parts of the city, including Network members to “areas way out of where they’re comfortable,” such as Lower Nob Hill and Union Square.
Taqueria Los Coyotes could not be reached at this time. The fire department said city officials were alerted to assist the business.
“I asked the Fire Chief to report on fires in the Mission that started in the streets & ended damaging or burning down buildings. I have asked her to advise if we need new laws, enforcement tools, or resources to address this ever increasing problem. Will report back next week,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen tweeted.