SLIDESHOW: SFFD battles four-alarm Lower Haight building blaze 

When Pierre Pegeron saw flames shooting out the windows of the building across from his business Tuesday, he didn’t think -- he acted.

Click on the photo at right to see a slideshow of the event.

The owner of Lo-Cost Meat Market on Haight and Fillmore streets ran into the three-story structure to help get people out. Peregon, along with Gustavo Manzanares, a painter hired by the owner of the engulfed building above a Walgreens, pulled the fire alarm, then grabbed extinguishers and headed to the third floor where the flames were the heaviest, banging on doors the entire way.

“We had to keep going and get everyone out,” Peregon said. “The heat was intense, but it was dry.”

Peregon said he helped at least five people leave the 41-unit building. Others were alerted by the fire alarm. He said he did not believe anyone was in the apartment where the fire started because he entered, checked on a bedroom and called out to anyone inside.
“I couldn’t get past the first bedroom,” Peregon said. “I could see the flames; it was so hot and there was so much smoke. I hope it was empty.”
No one was injured in the blaze, which began around 4 p.m. Tuesday and quickly spread, turning from a one-alarm to a four-alarm inferno, according to fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge.

The large volume of smoke in the attic made the blaze difficult for firefighters to battle, Talmadge said, and a number of explosions were reported. She said those explosions might have come from “firecrackers or paint.”

It took the Fire Department 90 minutes to extinguish the inferno.

Though no injuries were reported, Neicy Hopkins, 44, said she saw a women jump from a second-story window when the fire started. Hopkins, who called 911, said the woman walked away from the building and was not seen among the large crowd that gathered on Haight Street.

“Something exploded and broke out all the windows; that’s when the woman jumped,” Hopkins said. “You could see the flames. It was horrible.”

Sherry Blaylock, who has worked at the Walgreens for 27 years, said she has never seen anything like the fire.

“It spread so fast,” Blaylock said. “I didn’t think it was a real fire when they first came in and told us about it.”

The cause of the blaze is under investigation. Damage estimates were unavailable Tuesday, and it was unclear if or for how long the Walgreens would be closed.

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