Update: The SF Fire Department now counts 10 residents who have been displaced. That number, again, could change.
Rebecca Rudolph, a neighbor, has set up a GoFundMe campaign for those who need help. So far only $1,275 has been raised.
Earlier: Posted Nov. 14, 11:24 a.m.
Three tenants were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries Tuesday morning after a two-alarm fire broke out at 6 a.m. and spread to two buildings on the east side of Valencia Street between 20th and 21st streets.
Between eight and 14 tenants were displaced, leaving some traumatized after they opened their doors to flames, and were forced to wait for the fire department to be rescued off rooftops and fire escapes.
The fire department said it rescued five tenants and got the fire under control by 6:47 a.m. It counted only eight tenants displaced, but said the number could change. There were at least 16 units in the two buildings, likely filled with more than eight tenants, and the fire department said both buildings have been declared uninhabitable.
Three of the four units at the two-story 963 Valencia St. building, and 10 of the 12 units at the three-story 969-975 Valencia St. building were occupied, according to tenants who gathered across the street after the fire, speaking with one another and the American Red Cross. That could bring the number of displaced tenants to at least 14, as one apartment had two tenants.
The 969-975 Valencia St. building also had two ground-floor businesses: The Darkside Initiative and the Ministry of Scent.
While no one was seriously injured, residents said they woke up at 6 a.m. to the beeping of fire alarms, and quickly discovered hallways already filled with smoke and a stairwell in flames. It appears that the fire started in the stairwell at 969-975 Valencia St. and then spread to 963 Valencia St., but an investigation is underway, according to the battalion chief, Kevin McKeon, who was on site.
Gabrielle, a 30-year-old designer who lived in the back-middle apartment at 975 Valencia, said that after the alarm woke her up, she opened her door to flames. She quickly stepped out of her back window, but looked down to see the stairs used for escape in flames. “I hopped onto the low building connected,” she said, but that, too, proved unhelpful in getting out of the building.
She credited the calm demeanor of a tenant nearby, Jordan, for calming her down and then rescuing an 80-year-old tenant on the third floor. “He ripped the screen off [her window] and he got her out,” she said, adding that within three minutes, firefighters were there to rescue the tenants gathered on the ledge.
Other tenants said that the woman who was rescued was Yolanda, who is in her 80s and has lived in the building for more than 30 years.
Victor Gonzalez, who lives in a unit at the front of the building, found himself out on the fire escape at the front of the building. He woke up to a “beep beep beep,” he said, “and I am trying to figure out what is happening.”
“I hear someone running down the stairs,” he said. But when he opened his door, he saw a cloudy pink hallway and flames on the stairwell. He could not exit, so he left by a window to climb onto the fire escape. He waited there until he was rescued by the fire department.
Amrit Kapil, a dentist who lives in the 963 Valencia St. building, said a neighbor knocked on his door and he saw fire next door, so he exited quickly and the fire department was on the scene. On Tuesday morning, Kapil and other tenants were talking about renting U-Haul trucks to cart their belongings away. Few thought they would be back soon.
Daniel Navarrete, a 47-year-old mechanic, and his partner, Angelica Torre, also live at 963 Valencia St.
He showed photos of what remained of his apartment. “We are trying to see what we can do,” he said.
The American Red Cross was on the scene and said any tenant would get emergency housing and other help. They should call 1-800- RED CROSS.
Xueer Lu contributed to this report.
This is a breaking story and we will be updating.