Recent massive Mission District fires raising questions

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In the past six months, there have been three massive fires in San Francisco's Mission District, two of them deadly. Those fires have raised a lot of questions.

"Quite frankly, there are a lot of suspicions on the part of some folks. Is there arson? Is there malfeasance?" San Francisco Supervisor David Campos said.

Supervisor Campos is talking about the disturbing pattern of fires that has stunned his Mission District constituents.

In September, flames engulfed a three-story building at 23rd and Mission Street. In January, an inferno at 22nd and Mission Street killed a man and left more than 50 residents homeless. Earlier this month, another fatal fire was at 24th and Treat Ave.

Supervisor Campos held a hearing on Thursday to look for answers.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and her experts say the fires are still under investigation, but there is a possible answer to the one at 22nd and Mission Street.

"Appears to be electrical, but we are waiting for confirmation from the crime lab to say that with authority," SFFD Capt. John Darmann said.

While the investigations continue, a new concentrated effort has been launched by the Department of Building Inspection to examine 126 multi-family buildings along a 6.5-mile stretch of Mission Street from Third Street to Geneva Ave. to see if there are code violations.

"These are typically what we call non-rated wood buildings that don't have the same fire protection as newer buildings have, so it's very important they have amenities that are fully functioning," San Francisco Department of Building Inspection's Rosemary Bosque said.

Property owners of the three buildings were determined to be repeat violators. Housing inspectors say one had padlocked the gate to a safety exit.

Their cases were turned over to the city attorney for action earlier this week.

Supervisor Campos is now considering drafting legislation making it easier for residents to report problems and making sure property owners verify safety inspections.
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