Firefighters investigating cause of 5-alarm fire in San Francisco's SOMA district

Officials are still investigating the cause of the 5-alarm fire in San Francisco that burned six commercial buildings, displaced three residents and left one firefighter hurt.

Amy Hollyfield Image
ByAmy Hollyfield KGO logo
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Firefighters investigating cause of 5-alarm fire in SF
San Francisco firefighters say the cause of a five-alarm fire that tore through six buildings on Tuesday remains under investigation.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Fire Department now says they have discovered more buildings with damage from Tuesday morning's huge fire in the SOMA District. They originally had said six buildings were burned.

"In addition to that, we have buildings along Erie Street that have external damage from the fire. Those are also buildings that are involved, but for the purposes of this fire, we are including the six buildings within the actual footprint," Lt. Jonathan Baxter explained Wednesday morning.

"We have two buildings that are completely destroyed to the ground. The remaining buildings have severe damage, with one to two of them possibly requiring being demolished and the remaining ones with moderate to minor damage," Lt. Baxter said.

For every damaged building, there is a business owner, like Ali Gordafkan, trying to pick up the pieces.

"I have been here since 2009. I have pretty much lost everything. Right now it's all flooded and full of water. They won't let us back in," Gordafkan said as he stood on 14th Street Wednesday morning and stared at his glass company, GlassAll.

He is worried about paying his employees.

"I am trying to keep them afloat. They have to pay for their livings too. I have six employees. I sent two to a job, two are standing here and two are not," said Gordafkan.

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Firefighters have not located a cause but say a mattress fire Monday night at a homeless encampment is part of their investigation. The huge fire was reported Tuesday morning around 6:30.

"They will follow up with that to see if there is a nexus to that incident with this incident. At this point, to say that there is would merely be speculative," Lt. Baxter said.

Gordafkan won't be surprised if the mattress fire is to blame. He says he has reported problems with the homeless to the city for years.

"They go have a party on our roof when we are not there. Evidence is right there- graffiti on our walls and the feces that they leave behind," Gordafkan said.

"We reported the homeless being over there for years, years, not days. They are very slow to get rid of them or situate them somewhere else. I mean that's a lot of loss of income. You are looking at $50-60 million worth of income loss," Gordafkan said.

One firefighter was hurt in the fire. He was treated at the hospital and, according to Lt. Baxter, is now resting at home.

Lt. Baxter said three people who lived in an artist co-op on 14th Street have been displaced. One resident's cat is listed as missing.

Fire crews are still on the scene watching for flare-ups and say they will be for a few more days. 14th Street between Folsom and South Van Ness is closed to traffic.