A fast moving five-alarm fire near San Francisco’s Alamo Square injured three people and caused an estimated $8 million in structural damage to four buildings, fire officials said.

The fire broke out Thursday in the alley between 1502 Golden Gate Ave. and 1015 Pierce St., near the Pierce Street building’s trash chute, according to Tom Siragusa, deputy chief of operations for the San Francisco Fire Department.

The fire was reported shortly before noon by construction workers at a nearby school district-owned property. By the time the first firefighters arrived on the scene two and a half minutes later, the fire was already well established, Siragusa said.

Efforts to bring it under control were hampered by strong winds, with gusts of up to 30 mph, low humidity, and the fact that the buildings where it started were wooden structures built in close proximity to others, Siragusa said. By the time it was brought under control shortly after 3 p.m., four buildings had been damaged by the flames.

“This fire had a significant head start,” Siragusa said.

Three people were injured, including two firefighters, one who received burns to the neck and one who was treated for exhaustion. A civilian was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

The exact cause of the blaze remains under investigation. A total of 55 units were ultimately called out, including 169 firefighters.

The building at 1502 Golden Gate Ave., a three-unit Victorian, was largely gutted and sustained an estimated $2 million in property damage. The building on Pierce, where the fire started, received an estimated $6 million in damage. Two other buildings, the Creative Arts Charter School and a building at 1409 Elm St., sustained an estimated $25,000 in damage each.

Siragusa noted that a five-alarm fire is extremely unusual. The last one in San Francisco occurred almost six and a half years ago, he said.

The fire drew dozens of people out to nearby streets, and prompted the evacuation of a nearby elderly care facility due to the heavy smoke.

A total of 38 adults and three children were displaced by the fire, which affected a total of 27 units. One family in the Golden Gate Avenue property with a 2 and a half year old child had their Christmas presents damaged in the fire, and Siragusa said the firefighter’s toy donation program delivered some new toys to help make up for the loss.

The Red Cross evacuation center is located at the Missionary Temple church at 1455 Golden Gate Ave. Residents who need housing, food or other assistance are advised to go to the evacuation center or call (888) 4-HELP-BAY.

Those wishing to donate to the fire victims can contact the Red Cross at (888) 4-HELP-BAY or visit www.redcrossbayarea.org.

Photo: Christine Borden

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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