San Francisco Fire Department investigating 'suspicious' fires in the Castro 

Arson investigators are probing three separate fires that broke out within blocks of each other in the Castro district Thursday morning, including a two-alarm inferno that displaced 17 residents of an apartment building.

Firefighters putting out a “very simple” trashcan fire around 4:25 a.m. at Market and Sanchez streets ended up battling two raging building infernos only minutes later — one at 17th and Hartford streets and the other 16th and Market streets, San Francisco fire spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.

A firefighter suffered a minor ankle injury battling one of the blazes, but there were no other injuries, Talmadge said.

The fire at 3620 16th St. reached a second alarm at 5:11 a.m. and was under control about an hour later. The blaze displaced 17 people. Red Cross is working to find them shelter. They will either stay with family or in Red Cross-provided hotel rooms, Red Cross spokeswoman Melanie Finke said.

The fire at 17th and Hartford streets, which is just around the corner from the other building blaze, was reported around 5:30 a.m. and contained around 45 minutes later. The building was under construction and thus unoccupied, Talmadge said.

The 17th and Hartford fire grew to a second alarm, then spread and caused damage to a neighboring building, Talmadge said.

The extent of the fire damage to all affected structures was not immediately known.

All the blazes are suspicious, Talmadge said. The fires originated at the exteriors of the buildings, she said.

“The trashcan fire in and of itself was not suspicious, however investigators will look at that in combination with these other fires,” she said.

An army of firefighters responded to the blazes. Talmadge said Thursday’s fires illustrated the need to keep fire stations in The City opened. Budget problems have threatened fire station closures.

Less fire coverage throughout The City could leave some communities vulnerable in situations where multiple companies are responding to major fires, she said.

“Our goal is to prevent anybody from not getting a response,” Talmadge said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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