SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A massive fire that burned at a construction site in San Francisco’s Mission Bay on Tuesday brought back memories for firefighters who battled a similar blaze at Santana Row in San Jose more than a decade ago.

San Jose Fire Capt. Mike Van Elgort spoke to KCBS about the challenges of fighting these massive types of fires.

Elgort fought the fire from Truck 1 on Santana Row, which broke out when the project was under construction on August 19, 2002. “I remember similar images,” he said.

The buildings that burned in Tuesday’s fire were empty and under construction. According to Elgort, that changes the strategy.

“These buildings are more open air. They don’t have the walls completed yet to protect it from the wind. The wind is a greater issue. The fire protection systems may not be fully installed yet, so there are not going to be any control measures from those systems,” he said.

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The biggest parallel between the two fires was the amount of burning embers, Elgort said. He compared them to a wildfire.

“You have to have the ability to patrol the surrounding area and make sure that other buildings don’t catch fire from the embers,” he said.

In the Santana Row fire, about a dozen other buildings were impacted by heavy winds. Elgort estimated the construction site on fire at Mission Bay was the larger of the two fires.

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