San Francisco fire started at bottom of trash chute 

click to enlarge A man looks through a camera while sitting on a roof across the street from an apartment fire in the Western Addition area in San Francisco, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. - JEFF CHIU/AP
  • Jeff Chiu/AP
  • A man looks through a camera while sitting on a roof across the street from an apartment fire in the Western Addition area in San Francisco, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011.

San Francisco fire officials say the five-alarm blaze that tore through two residences began at the bottom of a trash chute in an alleyway.

The cause of Thursday's fire, however, remains under investigation. The blaze — the city's biggest in more than seven years — left more than 40 people homeless at the height of the holiday season.

Deputy Chief of Operations Tom Siragusa says the fire appeared to have burned undetected for a significant amount of time before firefighters arrived. Low humidity and high winds then made it difficult to control.

A Victorian condominium suffered an estimated $2 million in damage. A second building containing small apartments and studios sustained $6 million in damage.

A nearby charter school and another residence also suffered some damage.

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