SF Store Destroyed in 5-Alarm Blaze, Toxic Smoke Billows in City

A store destroyed in a five-alarm blaze in San Francisco's Mission District was so large and hot that it sent toxic smoke billowing blocks away and injured at least three people, including two firefighters, according to fire officials.

Neighbors were also evacuated from their homes during the blaze.

One civilian and two firefighters on the scene had to be treated for minor smoke inhalation, San Francisco Fire Department spokesperson Mindy Talmadge said.

The roof of the building caved in during the blaze and firefighters were still on scene late Thursday.

The fire was reported at about 1 p.m. at 2632 Mission St., a commercial building that is listed as the address of Big House Inc., a retail store.[[274007801, C]]

The store housed highly-flammable materials such as clothes, backpacks and housewares.

"Difficult fire to fight -- smokey, nasty and difficult to breathe at times," San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said.

She said that the firefighters were called to the Big House in 2009 and 2013 after there were two separate complaints for fire code violations. But in both instances, the chief said, the business was able to correct the violations and no citations were issued.

"We inspected and directed the owner to widen one of the aisle ways that led to a rear exit, they complied and were not cited," she said.

Lorene Scripps, who lives in the area, said it was hard to walk in the store because it was too full.

"There's hundreds of tons of fabric, clothing piled on top of piles, on top of piles to the ceiling," Scripps said. "I stopped going in there because it's a hazard waiting to happen -- someone is going to get killed in there."

The blaze was initially reported as requiring a two-alarm response but grew to five alarms by 2:15 p.m. Firefighters were finally able to get a handle on the blaze about three hours after it began.

The fire sent smoke billowing through the Mission District and prompted the shutdown of Mission Street between 22nd and 23rd streets as well as parts of Valencia and Capp streets. Police said there was a lot of plastic burning in the fire and advised people to stay away.

NBC’s chopper over San Francisco firefighters responding to a 5-alarm fire at a three-story building in the City’s Mission District.

Firefighters evacuated residents in the 100 block of Bartlett Street, directly behind the fire, a resident said. The resident said she was evacuated shortly after seeing flames pouring into her backyard from the back of the building on Mission Street.

Mayor Ed Lee says he was grateful that there were no serious injuries reported. A second building was also damaged.

The owner of New Mission City, at 2626 Mission St., the business next door to where the fire was initially reported, said his whole store and all of its merchandise were destroyed in the fire.

Classes at City College’s Mission campus were canceled and the school's Bartlett Building on Valencia Street was cleared out due to smoke concerns.

Talmadge said the fire has been contained to a single building, but several surrounding buildings sustained smoke and water damage. She said about 130 firefighters responded to the scene to make sure the blaze did not spread elsewhere.

A cause of the fire is under investigation.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Big House had been cited. It has not.

NBC Bay Area’s Derek Shore, Christie Smith, Mark Matthews and Gonzalo Rojas, the Associated Press, and Bay City News contributed to this report.

Residents who live nearby were evacuated from their homes as a five-alarm fire tore through a three-story building in San Francisco’s Mission District, sending smoke billowing blocks away and injuring at least three, including two firefighters, fire officials said. Christie Smith and Mark Matthews report.
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