A fire broke out this evening around 7 p.m. at a three-story apartment building at 3017 20th St., displacing 22 tenants, including one child, according to the San Francisco Fire Department. No injuries have been reported, but at least one couple had to be helped out of their apartment.
Josue Contreras, the host at Trick Dog, a popular bar across the street from the building, said the fire started in an upper unit. He first noticed a burning smell, and then saw someone come out of the building, calling for help. It was the son of a couple still in the building. Contreras said that the son told him he kept trying to go up the stairs, but there was too much smoke.
“I went in there, and it was just smoke, smoke, smoke, and at some moment I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to die in here.'”
Contreras met the son on the stairway, and helped with the mother. The father, who is in his late 60s, wanted to put on his shoes and get some papers. “So, I had to drag him and pull him out,” Contreras said.
By 8 p.m., the fire was contained, but nine fire trucks remained, and the tenants of the damaged building, as well as the tenants from buildings of the same block, were not being allowed back into their apartments.
Contreras said that, given the amount of smoke, the damage was probably pretty bad. It was unclear if the elderly couple had to be treated for smoke inhalation, but Contreras said he was fine and already back at work.
Janis Rough, who lives nearby, said that she saw the tree behind the building burning. “I’ve never seen such a big fire before, and I thought the whole block would burn out, but the firefighters came really fast and controlled it.”
The Red Cross was still on the scene at 9 p.m., offering residents help. The elderly couple rescued earlier was being attended to. The man was wearing only one shoe. His other foot was covered with a piece of cardboard fitted around his foot.
Jonathan Baxter, the public information officer for the fire department at the scene, said that just after 7 p.m., the department got multiple 911 calls about a fire. When they arrived on the scene, the second and third floors at 3017 20th St. were on fire. “The fire rapidly grew to a two-alarm fire, bringing almost 75 firefighters to the scene,” he said. The fire extended to the multi-story building just east of 3017 20th St., he added.
Firefighters were able to save the building west of the structure where the fire started, but “are still actively checking it to make sure there’s nothing hot that’s still hiding inside the building.” There, the first floor had water damage and the tenants were told to find another place to stay for tonight.
Baxter said the fire department would be there through the night. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The SFFD is asking residents to avoid the area between Alabama and Florida Streets.
This is a breaking story and we will update as more information becomes available.