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Massive Fire Engulfs San Francisco Apartment Buildings

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Flames and smoke shoot out from apartment buildings in San Francisco's Western Addition Neighborhood, December 22, 2011. (CBS)

Flames and smoke shoot out from apartment buildings in San Francisco’s Western Addition Neighborhood, December 22, 2011. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A five-alarm fire that burned for hours in three buildings near San Francisco’s Alamo Square Thursday was finally brought under control shortly after 3 p.m., a fire dispatcher said.

The fire was reported at 11:53 a.m. at a three-unit Victorian home at 1502 Golden Gate Ave. and the flames spread rapidly along the rear of the building, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said at a news briefing at the scene.

At least two people suffered minor injuries in the fire—a firefighter who suffered neck burns and a civilian who suffered smoke inhalation, Hayes-White said. A dispatcher said the firefighter who suffered the burns was taken to Saint Francis Memorial Hospital.

PHOTOS: Fire Engulfs San Francisco Apartment Buildings

About 140 firefighters responded to the blaze.

Hayes-White said the “intensity of the heat and flames” forced firefighters to change tactics when conditions became too dangerous.

She said the wind presented challenges, as did the fact that the building where the blaze started is a wooden structure and is attached to other buildings.

“Everyone’s done a tremendous job,” Hayes-White said of the firefighting efforts.

The cause of the blaze has not been determined, but fire investigators were at the scene looking for clues late this afternoon, a dispatcher said.

The fire was described by Hayes-White as “one of the most intense the city has seen in some time.”

KCBS Team Coverage:

It brought dozens of people out to nearby streets to watch the activity, including supervisor and sheriff-elect Ross Mirkarimi, who represents the neighborhood.

“This is gut-wrenching because we’re in the heart of the holiday,” Mirkarimi said.

A nearby elderly care facility also had to be evacuated as a precaution because of the heavy smoke.

The building where the fire started is adjacent to the Creative Arts Charter School. An outgoing message at the school states that the school is on winter break.

The American Red Cross responded to the scene and has since set up an evacuation center to assist residents displaced from the roughly 30 units affected by the fire.

The evacuation center is 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.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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