UPDATE: Five firefighters injured battling four-alarm Mission district blaze 

click to enlarge Five firefighters and one resident were injured Sunday morning when a four-alarm fire tore through an apartment building in the Mission district. - JOSEPH SCHELL/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Joseph Schell/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Five firefighters and one resident were injured Sunday morning when a four-alarm fire tore through an apartment building in the Mission district.

Five firefighters and one resident were injured Sunday morning when a four-alarm fire tore through an apartment building in the Mission district.

Three firefighters — including one lieutenant — were injured when a stairwell collapsed. Another was treated for a foot injury, and a fifth firefighter’s hand was cut. One resident of the building was taken to St. Francis Memorial Hospital for smoke inhalation.

No one was critically hurt, but two of the three firefighters injured in the stairwell were undergoing MRIs on Sunday to check for muscular and skeletal damage.

The blaze was first reported at 9:51 a.m. at the corner of Duboce Avenue and Valencia Street, Fire Department Deputy Chief Mark Gonzales said. Crews were on the scene within minutes because firefighters on an engine nearby who were doing hydrant checks had smelled the smoke.

It turned from a one- to four-alarm fire within 15 minutes, and was contained by about 11:20 a.m.
Gonzales said when the first trucks arrived, flames behind the three-story Victorian structure were shooting 20 feet into the air. An aggressive attack was immediately launched inside the building.

“Most buildings we have on fire, we always attack aggressively,” Gonazales said. “We have nothing but wood buildings along the street; if we don’t get that fire, we’re going to lose more buildings.”

The building, which was constructed around 1900, had dry paint and a wood frame that helped feed the blaze. Gonzales said the fact that few people were home to report the fire also impacted its size.

Gonzales said the nice weather, the fact that it was Sunday morning and that a Sunday Streets event was taking place just down the road likely contributed to the limited number of people in the building at the time of the blaze.
The Red Cross said 37 people were displaced.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but it is believed to have begun in the stairwell.

A number of residents of the Duboce Avenue building and the adjacent structure on Valencia Street were seen in the parking lot of a business across the street. Many tearfully recalled getting out of the building, but potentially losing all of their belongings.

Others declined to speak because they were too shaken by the incident.

Sulton Alkhraisa said he ran to help his family and others in the Valencia building.

The owner of S and S Ceasars Café — located on the ground floor at 208 Valencia St. — said he carried his 65-year-old mother down from the top floor of the Valencia building just in case the fire spread.

Alkhraisa said he and an employee of Fred’s Liquors, on the first floor of the Duboce building, grabbed fire extinguishers and tried to fight the blaze until firefighters arrived.

“It was so hard, it was out of control,” he said. “It didn’t do anything; the fire was already spreading.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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