San Francisco

5-Alarm Fire Burns Multiple Buildings in San Francisco

NBC Universal, Inc.

A five-alarm fire in San Francisco Tuesday morning burned multiple buildings, left one firefighter injured and pumped smoke into the East Bay, triggering an air quality advisory.

Flames engulfed at least six commercial buildings on the border of the city's South of Market neighborhood and Mission District, near southbound Highway 101, sending black and gray smoke billowing above the area and freeway, fire officials said.

More than 100 firefighters worked to knock down the blaze. The injured firefighter was taken to a hospital but later released. No other injuries were reported.

There were power lines down in the street, falling debris and zero visibility in the thick of the firefight, San Francisco Fire Department spokesman Jonathan Baxter said.

"Thick black smoke," he told NBC Bay Area. "Where we are standing right now, at 6:30 this morning, you would not be able to see me, and I would not be able to see you."

Air quality officials were telling people in San Francisco and the East Bay to stay indoors with their windows closed due to the drifting smoke.

"We’re likely to see that smoke dissipate over the rest of the afternoon and the evening because winds are expected to pick up," Sarah Zahedi with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said.

Firefighters responded to the area of Folsom and 13th streets in what started as a two-alarm blaze and was quickly elevated to five alarms.

For Brian Bartfeld and his father, the fire was personal. Before the blaze, Bartfeld Sales Co. had been a San Francisco building material business for 73 years, calling 140 14th St. home for about the last 40 years.

“All my dad’s life work, entrepreneur you know, he started this from scratch, from nothing," Brian Bartfeld said. "To see it up in flames, I can’t even imagine what he’s going through. My mom couldn’t even come in today."

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Red Cross was at the scene assisting about 100 people who were working at the buildings and had to be evacuated. The agency set up a staging area in a parking lot at 1745 Folsom St., officials said.

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