sffd_firefighters.jpgA massive hotel fire destroyed a building and displaced 90 people in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood Wednesday night.

Hundreds of witnesses gathered to watch flames engulf the three-story Park Hotel at 1040 Folsom St. at about 6 p.m.

The blaze quickly moved to a three-story, six-unit apartment building behind the Park Hotel on Russ Street, and dark smoke billowed over Folsom Street.

Responding firefighters were able to get everyone out from the threatened buildings, but five people were injured during the commotion, fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.

The victims were transported to a local hospital for injuries not believed to be life threatening. One man was a Park Hotel resident and four other victims were firefighters, Talmadge said.

“All of the firefighters inhaled a lot of smoke, but one suffered a laceration to the forehead, one had a shoulder injury, and another victim had a knee injury,” she said.

At one point during the firefight, at least four wooden ladders were propped against the Park Hotel while firefighters worked to rescue occupants from the burning building.

Dark, yellowish smoke surged from the Park Hotel, which had shattered windows. The smoke turned whiter in color as firefighters doused the flames.

The fire damaged four buildings, and the Park Hotel’s was the most severe with about $2.5 million worth of the property destroyed.

The six-unit building behind the hotel sustained about $1 million in damage.

One resident of the Russ Street building, Danielle, who declined to give her last name, was home with her roommate and cat when the fire broke out next door.

“I saw it happen. I was in my kitchen. It hit our staircase,” she said. “When it hit our staircase, I had to shut the door because the smoke started billowing up.”

She said that she believed the fire started on the ground floor of the Park Hotel and that she initially believed they were safe in their apartment.

“I thought it would be OK,” she said, but she suddenly realized the building was burning down and that they had to escape.

Two neighboring buildings at 1048 and 1034 Folsom St. sustained $20,000 and $5,000 in water damage, respectively.

The American Red Cross has been assisting in finding displaced residents alternative housing.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Talmadge said.

“There have been reports that maybe someone was cooking or someone was barbequing, but the investigators haven’t found anything to substantiate that,” she said.

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