4-alarm fire in SF leaves small businesses in ruins

October 12, 2012 7:28:36 PM PDT
A serious fire in San Francisco has left behind a real mess. It broke out before dawn Friday at a restaurant on West Portal Avenue and Ulloa Street, and spread fast.

There were no deaths or serious injuries, but it is still a major disruption in a hub, a very special San Francisco neighborhood. The early morning fire left a mess of smoke, soot, and water, with at least three small businesses in ruins.

The fire began around 5 a.m. in what used to be the Squat and Gobble Restaurant. Unlike the name, those flames did not squat, however. And in keeping with it, they gobbled into walls, spreading quickly to two other buildings. It was no easy task for fire fighters. Adding to the difficulty, the building was constructed in an era with less stringent fire codes. The flames burned so hot at times the firemen had to retreat for awhile, and then they just poured water on it.

"It's been tough. It's a very deep the building. The first building they were in the fire was hard to find. They thought they put out the seed of the fire, they put out what they saw, unfortunately it was far ahead of us before we got here -- in the walls, in the attic," said San Francisco Fire Dep. Chief Mark Gonzales.

Just when firefighters thought it was just about contained, there were flare-ups.

Darkness yielded to dawn, then dawn to day, and day to despair for owners of small businesses. Dr. Leonard Warren owned half of the building. He began doing orthodontics upstairs in 1966, "Time and materials, and taking care of patients, that's the loss. Materially wise, we can replace that."

Sharon Bologna, meantime, thought about all the history here, "Siskin's Thrift Drug, that was my dad." Bologna owns the other half of the building, "It's not just a fire. It's memories It's people's livelihoods."

It's a vital corner in a genuine small-town style San Francisco neighborhood; a special place, even if you just pass through every day.

Five apartments were also affected by the fire. According to the Red Cross, the residents were evacuated in the morning and were allowed to return later in the day.

Though the cause of the fire is under investigation, officials say they believe it started in the restaurant's kitchen.


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