Convicts displaced by fire moved to rec center

June 18, 2010 6:11:53 PM PDT
The more than 200 residents evacuated from a burning Tenderloin apartment Building Friday night are federal and state prisoners serving the end of their sentences.

One hundred forty-three residents are now being housed at a city recreation center at 6th and Folsom. The rest were allowed to go to their family homes and other facilities.

The three-alarm fire at 111 Taylor started around 5:40 p.m. and was brought under control about 45 minutes later. Flames burned through the roof of the four-story building. Two people received minor injuries and were treated and released.

"We opened the door and there was a lot of smoke in the hallway, so we hurried up and got out of the building," said resident and parolee Robert Livingston. He says the program helps him while he looks for a job. "We have a place to go and we can come get our things together, get donations from the public as far as for clothing, and I have a place to sleep and eat.

"They provide us with jobs and things like that here, but now people don't have nothing there," said Ignacio Avila who lost all of his belongings. He lives on the fourth floor which is now uninhabitable.

The Red Cross says this was one of the biggest displacements in recent memory, but added it will have no problem accommodating the evacuees' needs.

The company that runs the halfway house program for the inmates is Cornell Corrections which operates prisons, drug and alcohol rehab facilities and other halfway houses. Cornell Corrections says the building is a secure facility with guards monitoring the facility. Residents have to sign in and out. Many have jobs as they transition back into the community.

The San Francisco Fire Department says it is still evaluating whether to allow the prisoners back into the facility. A fire official says the top floor (4th floor) is uninhabitable but residents may be able to move back into the rest of the building.

Although it is a secure building, Cornell Corrections spokesman Charles Seigel says the structure has two interior emergency stairwells and two fire escapes on the outside.

The building passed its last fire and safety inspections in May.


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