Emergency Shelter Opens for People Displaced by Two Major Fires

The American Red Cross and Salvation Army have opened an emergency shelter for roughly 90 residents displaced by two major fires in San Francisco this week, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management announced today.

The temporary shelter is located at the Salvation Army’s Mission Corps Community Center at 1156 Valencia St.

Mark Cloutier, regional chief executive officer of the American Red Cross, said that the best way to help the victims at this point is with a direct financial contribution. At present, they are not accepting in-kind donations like clothes or furniture on behalf of the displaced residents.

“It takes time and money to sort and distribute donated items whereas financial donations can be accessed quickly and put to use right away,” Cloutier said in a statement today.

The first fire, which started around 6:45 p.m. Wednesday at the corner of Mission and 22nd streets in the Mission District, killed one person and injured seven more. A total of 67 residents were displaced, including 15 children.

Some residents have told fire officials that they did not hear a fire alarm, and there were problems with the fire escapes.

“Investigators received multiple reports that the residents had no advanced warning from an alarm system,” San Francisco Fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said in a statement. “There were also multiple reports that some of the fire escapes were either blocked or locked, so the investigators are going to look into those reports.”

A fire inspector visited the building Thursday and verified that the certifications for the fire alarm and fire extinguishers are in fact still current, Talmadge said.

Fire department records indicate that between 2009 and 2012 officials have received roughly one complaint per year regarding items, including furniture and an awning, blocking the fire escapes at that building. All of those issues were abated, however, Talmadge said.

Another major fire occurred Thursday night in a multi-story apartment building at 632 Hyde St. around 11:30 p.m., injuring two people and displacing roughly 23 more.

According to Talmadge, one of the injured victims in the Hyde Street fire may have jumped from the building to escape. Talmadge could not specify which floor the victim might have jumped from, but said the victim was found injured on the ground near the building.

In a statement today, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said the city is working to re-house displaced residents and support the small businesses affected by the fires.

Officials with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development met with people from the affected businesses earlier today at the Mission Police Station to help them fill out disaster declaration forms in order to obtain assistance from the state.

Dave Brooksher, Bay City News

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