SAN FRANCISCO-- A San Francisco firefighter is in the hospital with life-threatening respiratory problems this afternoon after a roof collapsed during a three-alarm fire at a vacant home this morning.
The man who is struggling for his life is an 11-year veteran of the department and was one of six firefighters injured in the 12:30 a.m. blaze that gutted a pink two-story house at 637 Felton St.
A second firefighter was also still hospitalized as of midday, with first- and second-degree burns, San Francisco fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.
The other four firefighters were treated for injuries including burns, respiratory problems and a broken ankle and released, Talmadge said.
At a news conference late this morning in front of the home, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said both the cause of the fire and the response are being investigated.
"We want to keep ... anyone who was injured in our thoughts and prayers and find out exactly what happened," Hayes-White said.
She said all aspects of the blaze are being looked into, from the breathing equipment the firefighters were using to what sparked the flames. Arson units were called to the scene but that is typical protocol and there was no immediate indication the blaze was set intentionally, she said.
When firefighters arrived early this morning after a neighbor reported the blaze, the smoke was thick, and the attic and a back section of the home were already engulfed in flames, fire officials said.
They immediately called a second alarm. When a section of the roof collapsed, they called a third alarm.
None of the firefighters were actually hit by the roof, but the collapse sent a sudden burst of heat down a hallway, which caused the injuries, Fire Chief of Operations Patrick Gardner said.
The flames were controlled by 1:10 a.m. but firefighters and safety personnel were still at the scene at noon today.
"We'll be here as long as it takes to determine the cause and origin," Hayes-White said.
Gardner said more than 100 firefighters helped battle the flames.
Hayes-White said the six firefighters' injuries have affected the whole department. "We are family," she said.