In a metaphor for our times, San Francisco is suffering through a string of dumpster fires

San Francisco Fire Department investigators are poring over a string of five dumpster and trash-bin fires lit in the early morning hours between Aug. 18 and Aug. 22. One of the fires, at 300 Grove St., transferred from the building’s exterior to its interior and inflicted $350,000 in damage. 

In the wee hours of Aug. 18, firefighters quelled a dumpster fire at 833 Bryant St. Three days later, two trash bins were found ablaze at Moscone South, located at 747 Howard St. 

Then, on Aug. 22, firefighters extinguished another dumpster fire at 333 Fulton. Also on the 22nd, SFFD personnel responded to 300 Grove for two separate fires involving trash. 

Department spokesman Lt. Jonathan Baxter said the fires are not believed to be a byproduct of cooking or heating or drug use. Rather, “it has the hallmarks of incendiary” — that is, potential arson.

Map by Will Jarrett. Basemap from Mapbox. Data from the San Francisco Fire Department.

Several of the fires are believed to be related to one another, and it is possible that some or all of them may have been set by the same individual or individuals. 

Baxter said the pair of fires at 300 Grove are suspected to have been set by the same person or people, and that the pair of fires at Moscone South also may well have been kindled by the same person or people. It is not yet clear, however, if multiple fires set at different locations, and on different days, all originated with the same hand. 

Baxter urged area residents to send any information they have to or call 415-558-3300. All of the fires were lit between midnight and 7 a.m., and he urges anyone with a security camera or doorbell camera who resides in the area of the fires to scour their footage for those hours. 

This is a developing story and will be updated as possible.


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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. I see London Breed has done a series of walking tours through the neighborhoods.

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  2. “Spate of dumpster fires” is the perfect description for San Francisco governance in 2022.

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