sffd_firefighters.jpg1:33 PM: Two people have been arrested and will face arson charges for allegedly starting a four-alarm fire in San Francisco’s Silver Terrace neighborhood early this morning, a police spokesman said.

Police plan to release the suspects’ names later today, police spokesman Officer Gordon Shyy said. No other suspects are believed to be outstanding and no one was injured in the fire, Shyy said.

The fire was reported at about 3 a.m. on Boutwell Street near Bayshore Boulevard.
Firefighters labeled it suspicious after smelling gas upon arrival and finding a gas can nearby, Assistant Fire Chief Tom Siragusa said.

The blaze spread to three other adjacent residences and also knocked down live power lines before being controlled at 4:51 a.m.

The owner of the house at 170 Boutwell St. where the fire started could also face litigation after leaving the home vacant for years, said William Strawn, spokesman for the city’s Department of Building Inspection.

Marla Racca, who lives nearby on Boutwell Street, said the building had been abandoned by its owner, Jack Noonan, after a previous fire gutted it almost three years ago today, on July 4, 2009.

Racca said a group of squatters had moved in, and that she frequently heard “a whole lot of hammering” and other loud noises coming from the home, which had a back gate and staircase leading down to Bayshore Boulevard.

Strawn confirmed that a John J. Noonan is the registered owner of the home but said he has been “non-responsive” and hasn’t communicated with building inspectors.

A complaint had been filed in September 2009 about the building being unsecured, with squatters staying on the premises, but it was back in compliance by the following month, Strawn said.

However, the home was inspected as recently as May 8 of this year by building inspectors, who said it was vacant and that its owner had failed to comply with a city ordinance requiring the registration of vacant or abandoned buildings, Strawn said.

He said the department will now consider forwarding the case to the city attorney’s office for possible litigation for non-compliance.

“It looks like it could be a pretty good candidate,” Strawn said.

The official cause of the fire remains under investigation, and there is not yet a dollar estimate for the damage it caused.

At least eight adults and two children were displaced and were assisted by the American Red Cross.

10:55 AM: A suspicious four-alarm fire in San Francisco’s Silver Terrace neighborhood damaged four homes and displaced 10 people early this morning.

The blaze was reported on Boutwell Street near Bayshore Boulevard at about 3 a.m.

Firefighters arrived to find the buildings ablaze and power lines down, Assistant Fire Chief Tom Siragusa said. He said that when he got to the scene, he smelled gas.

A person seen leaving the area around the time the fire started has been detained, he said.

The fire was controlled at 4:51 a.m. No injuries were reported but at least eight adults and two children were displaced.

Siragusa said the house where the fire started was destroyed, and that three other homes were damaged. There is no dollar estimate for the damage yet.

Almost exactly three years ago today, another fire burned at the same two-story, wood-frame home where this morning’s fire started.

That blaze, which reached three alarms, was reported at about 10:30 p.m. on the Fourth of July in 2009. No one was injured.

Siragusa said fireworks caused the 2009 fire. A fire lieutenant said at the time that the fire was difficult to fight because of an unusual amount of debris inside the home.

Arlene Campbell, 58, who lives a few blocks away on Peralta Avenue, on the other side of U.S. Highway 101, said she knows the neighborhood well and that there are five to 10 homeless people who stay in the building where the fire started.

She said they have caused other problems in the neighborhood and that one once threatened to kill her. She said she has filed a police report about them.

Marla Racca, 28, who lives on Boutwell Street, said the home has a back staircase leading down to Bayshore Boulevard and that squatters live there.

She said that over time, she has heard “a whole lot of hammering” and other loud noises coming from the home. Racca said she and other residents have called police about the squatters.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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