1 dead, firefighter injured after 2-alarm fire in San Francisco's Richmond District

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019
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"I was banging on the door, shouting his name...I didn't know if he was in there or not." Roger Wilpitz recalls the moment he tried to help his neighbor before a fire spread through their apartment complex, ultimately killing that man.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco man died and a firefighter was taken to the hospital after an apartment caught fire in the Richmond District.

"I was banging on the door, shouting his name...I didn't know if he was in there or not," exclaimed Roger Wilpitz, who tried to help his downstairs neighbor.

"The smoke alarm went off in my unit, all of them," said Wilpitz who quickly realized his neighbor's apartment was on fire.

"Saw that the smoke was coming out of his backroom window, ran back up, 911, and then the fire department was here in no time flat," explained Wilpitz.

The fire broke out around 3 p.m. at 16th and Cabrillo in the Richmond District.

Sky7 was overhead minutes later, as San Francisco firefighters worked to fight back the flames and rescue the man trapped inside the second story unit on the west side of the building.

"They had to aggressively kick down and actually use a saw to cut the front door down to gain entry and started to actively fight the fire in that unit," said Lt. Jonathan Baxter, with the San Francisco Fire Department.

Firefighters pulled the man from the burning apartment, and waiting paramedics administered CPR and took him to the hospital.

Unfortunately, he did not survive.

"We do have investigators who are looking into the cause and origin as well as the fatality parameters for that one individual," said Lt. Baxter.

Firefighters worked into the night to clear debris and put out hot spots inside the four-unit building.

Red Cross workers helped Wilpitz, who says his unit was badly damaged by smoke and water.

None of the building residents will be spending the night at home for the holidays.

One firefighter was injured while fighting the fire on the third floor. He was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, and is expected to make a full recovery.

Fire investigators are looking into the cause of the fire.

As is often the case with fires this time of year, they will be looking into whether holiday decor was a factor.