Taqueria Los Coyotes and the damaged parts of Wiese Street following a fire. Photo by Annika Hom, Feb. 3, 2022.

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. 

Wiese Street and the building ravaged by the fire. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022.

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.

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REPORTER. 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 on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

"Annie" is originally from Nebraska, where she found her calling to journalism as editor of her high school newsletter. Before returning to the field, she studied peace and political science in the Balkans, taught elementary and middle school, and worked as an epidemiologist during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow her on Twitter @anlancheney.

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  1. The consequences of enabling vagrant camps just keep piling up. Which straw will eventually break the camels back ?

  2. hmm, that address / building has always had concerns, seems that I can remember a kitchen fire way back. could it be a case of Mission lightening?

  3. After several fires over the past two years, I’d asked Ronen to move a buffer law that prohibits camping with a distance of a building. Crickets.

    I’m okay with cops enforcing that buffer zone against existing homeless encampments if non-cop intervention fails, given that the consequences of more fires are more displaced homeless people.

  4. Shouldn’t DPW be maintaining the sidewalks free from the debris? The simple savings to the City’s citizens having garbage and recycling trucks working overnight would pay for itself.
    How many more codes or laws have to be made when City agencies already tasked with these duties aren’t on the streets when they need to be. Based on the timing of many of the fires, DPW really needs a large 10pm-6am workforce cleaning the streets. Obviously, it’s not a 9am-5pm job, like they would like to think.

  5. New laws, Hillary!? For tent crackies to follow? Gurl, please.
    Enforce existing city codes and hold 311 accountable to resolve clean up requests.

  6. My family’s apartment building burned down in 2020. A homeless person set a fire outside the building. We lost everything and we’re renters, so insurance didn’t do much for us. We also had three kids, which displaced them and their life’s . Rebuilding is really hard.

    Even middle class folks are at risk of being victims of the fringe impacts of homelessness. This city has gone in a terrible direction.

    We need a restart button. It’s not okay to feel scared walking down the streets. It’s not okay for families to lose their life’s because of this. When will it stop?

  7. Sadly, a fire like this will have to kill people before the city takes any meaningful action. I suspect this will happen before the end of 2022.

  8. I saw pictures on Twitter that showed the street just before the fire. Cardboard and trash piled up next to the building, and lots of campers everywhere. If the city allows sidewalk camps like this, fires will inevitably occur.

  9. I couldn’t agree more with Aurora Borealis. We enable this behavior by not enforcing basic laws that are already on the books. In just the last two years – blight, dumping, absurd homeless camps right up against buildings, abandoned cars has exploded not just in the Mission, but in the entire City. Grafitti mars not just buildings, but our vaunted murals too. Time for the gloves to come off.

    Stop enabling this with lax enforcement.

  10. Yeah, what the Northern Lights just said, this is a sad, all too typical example of what letting the homeless occupy the streets in ad-hoc shanty towns brings to all residents in the city.

    We need to get them shelters while directing them to care (mental, addiction, financial, job retraining)

  11. This just sucks.

    This sentence from Hilary bother me, ” I have asked her to advise if we need new laws, enforcement tools, or resources to address this ever increasing problem.” Aren’t there already laws about litter? pretty sure trash filled streets is the job of the city to clean up and since this is Hilary’s district, she should be held accountable for not getting the city to do their job. Maybe Hilary can be held liable in a lawsuit since she neglected her civic duties…..

    Or maybe the landlord did this to get out from low rent.

  12. I find it outrageous that (1) the junk on Wiese Street reached such a level of blight, and (2) the fire started in that alley, displaced 22 people who had nothing to do with said junk. That alley, and EVERY alley in SF, should be kept clean and clear at all times, BY FORCE. At some point, unhoused people should not be allowed to keep junking up public streets and sidewalks.

    Stop coddling these people, and allowing their numerous vices and habits to keep bringing this city down. Because now 22 people are without a place to sleep, through no fault of their own!