SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – San Francisco bestowed honors Friday on the firefighters and other emergency personnel who fought the Mission Bay blaze that destroyed a six-story apartment building under construction just south of AT&T Park.
The ceremony recognized firefighters who kept the massive fire contained to a single building, even as the flames consumed its wood frame and showered ash onto the surrounding neighborhood.
“We were really challenged. We had some windy conditions that day,” said Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.
“It started out as a small, smoky fire, but it quickly grew,” she said, spreading throughout a building that filled an entire city block before the fire could be contained.
There was damage to some surrounding buildings, and to the rooftop of a building across the street because of the hot embers. The Fire Department estimates total damages in excess of $40 million.
“This fire was different because it was a building under construction, probably the worst time for it to catch fire—no fire protection systems in place, so no sprinklers, no detectors,” Hayes-White recounted.
The ceremony at Pier 48 also heaped accolades on police who managed the crowds of onlookers and the street traffic as fire engines maneuvered through commute traffic to position themselves around the building.
“It was a huge area that we had to set the perimeter up for,” said police Sgt. Will Williams, who described how officers searched adjacent buildings to make sure everyone was evacuated.
Mayor Ed Lee praised emergency dispatchers for how they handled incoming calls and routed vital information, as well as Muni drivers who kept their routes running despite challenging, sometimes unpredictable detours.
“Thank-you to each and every one of you,” Lee said, “including our Animal Care and Control as well, because we often times don’t think about that.”
The March 11 fire started accidentally by something smoldering on the sixth floor, but investigators have not determined what that object was, according to a report released this week.