Elderly woman dies in SF fire

December 17, 2008 12:57:07 AM PST
A fast-moving fire killed an elderly woman this afternoon in San Francisco and left dozens of her neighbors in temporary housing during this extremely cold weather. It happened at an apartment building on Bush Street between Jones and Taylor on Nob Hill.

Dozens of tenants found themselves out on the street on one of the coldest days of the year. A section of their Bush Street apartment building went up in flames this afternoon.

"I was still in my pajamas. I got dressed, by the time I got to the door, I couldn't see anything outside it was totally, totally black," said Nadine Uys, a tenant.

The fire started on the second floor, in the apartment of an elderly woman identified by neighbors as Loretta Jew. She died in the flames. Neighbors did what they could to save her.

"We tried to get some wet rags and see if we could go in there and see if everyone was all right or if anyone was in there in the first place, but there was too much smoke," said Lauren Yee, a tenant.

"She was a little tiny Asian lady about this big and walks with a cane. She's sight-challenged. Very sweet old lady," said Joe Rinaldi, the building manager.

Investigators don't know yet how the fire started. Several of the building's 53 units sustained damage. City inspectors don't want anyone living in the building until they get a chance to look at it.

There's no telling how long tenants will be displaced from their homes. The American Red Cross is providing a shelter, but most of the people we talked to say they will be staying with friends or family.

The uncertainty of it all led to some heightened emotions. David Craig has lived in the building for 30 years.

"I need my glasses I can't see that well without them and I can't get that. That's basically all I need," said Craig.

But for those who felt they weren't going to make it out alive, this fire has made them all the more thankful this holiday season.

"I've never been so afraid of my life before and I'm going to be living for every single day," said Uys.


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