Firefighters battle fierce blaze in Hayes Valley 

A raging fire engulfed the upper floor of a Hayes Valley apartment building early Monday evening, beating back a crew of firefighters briefly and forcing one to leap out the window of the building.

What started at 5:08 p.m. as a one-alarm fire at 52 Page St. quickly escalated to three alarms. Three trucks and 125 firefighters were called to the scene, Associate Fire Information Officer Katherine Alba-Swanson said.

Fire officials said the fire was under control by 5:56 p.m. and fully contained by 6:05 p.m. 17 residents were displaced by the fire; one was treated at the scene for minor smoke inhalation injuries and burns to her eyebrows and hair.

As the windows of the four-floor, eight-unit building began popping from the heat, fire poured out the back of the building, preventing firefighters from tackling the flames. One firefighter, left without any escape options, jumped out a side window onto the rooftop of an adjacent building. He returned to help extinguish the fire and was later taken to San Francisco General Hospital with minor injuries.

"This was a battle. We were fortunate that the adjacent buildings were of concrete structure or else the fire would definitely have spread," Lt. Ken Smith said.

One resident, Ronn Vigh, who lives in a ground-floor unit, was out having dinner when he received a "cryptic" text message.

"My friend who works for The City was like, ‘Are you OK?’ And then I came home to this," said a dejected Vigh, who was recording a demo tape for a radio job all afternoon before the fire erupted. "This is just a giant pain in the a-- for me."

Another resident, Sue Gartley, found solace from the chaos. Firefighters were able to rescue her 13-year-old black cat, Snip, who may have been lying underneath the bed, her usual spot in the apartment.

"We were so worried about our cat," said Gartley, who has been living in the apartment for 17 years with her partner, Jeff Carter.

For Gartley, the fire was a recurring scene. Before she moved into the Page Street apartment, an apartment she rented at Polk Street was also consumed by flames in 1981. And before that, her apartment in Boston was damaged in a fire.

"You would think I was jinxed or something. I don’t know," Gartley said.

Smith said the cause of the blaze is under investigation. Water damage in lower units made the entire building unfit for immediate occupation, he said. The Red Cross was helping people find accommodations.

The San Francisco Municipal Railway adjusted the routes of the 6, 7 and 71 lines because of the fire.

bliou@examiner.com

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