Deadly San Francisco blaze spurs look at fire alarms

AP News
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Posted: Jan 29, 2015 4:14 PM
Deadly San Francisco blaze spurs look at fire alarms

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Residents fleeing a massive blaze that killed a man and injured five people as it ripped through a San Francisco building told officials they did not hear fire alarms and could not get to fire escapes.

Authorities were examining whether safety equipment, including the sprinkler system, had been working properly after several people reported that access to fire escapes was encumbered or blocked, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said Thursday as she surveyed the damage with Mayor Ed Lee.

The building in the city's bustling Mission District passed a routine inspection two years ago, officials said.

Four residents and a firefighter were treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation and dehydration after flames shot out of the building that includes housing, offices, shops, restaurants and the Mission Market.

Firefighters responding to the blaze that broke out around 6:45 p.m. PST Wednesday rescued five people from a fire escape one story above the sidewalk, Hayes-White said. An elderly resident also was whisked from a balcony two stories up.

Authorities evacuated residents and nearby buildings, while more than 100 firefighters battled the blaze that burned for several hours before being contained.

The fire chief said 54 residents, including nine children, were displaced by the fire that also severely damaged several restaurants and businesses on the ground floor.

But the bulk of the damage occurred on the third floor, where the man between the ages of 30 and 40 was found dead, the fire chief said.

Firefighters found a small dog that was scared and shivering on the third floor about 3 a.m. Thursday and reunited it with its owner. No animals were reported injured, the chief said.

What ignited the fire and where it began are not yet known, Hayes-White said.

"It does not appear foul play/arson was a factor," San Francisco Police spokeswoman Grace Gatpandan said in an emailed statement.

Parts of Mission Street, one of the city's busiest areas, were closed as authorities investigate. Lee, the mayor, said helping the residents and businesses displaced by the fire is the city's priority.

The blaze happened not far from a six-story apartment complex being built in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood that sustained $40 million in fire damage last March. An accidental spark or hot or smoldering object from construction work was blamed for that blaze, which injured a few firefighters.