Thieves hit fire-damaged SF apartment 2 days in a row, steal at least $10K worth of items

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Saturday, April 22, 2023
Thieves hit fire-damaged SF apartment 2 days in a row
Thieves hit fire-damaged San Francisco apartment two days in a row and steal at least $10,000 worth of items.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Residents of a San Francisco Russian Hill apartment complex are speaking out after not only a 2-alarm fire Wednesday afternoon that left many displaced, but about thieves that ransacked one unit and broke in two days in a row.

Knowing the Russian Hill building she lives in was going up in flames in a 2-alarm fire Wednesday afternoon was not the most traumatic part of the week for Shivani, who requested we not use her last name.

"I didn't even think about something worse that could just added to everything," said Shivani.

RELATED: Crews contain 2-alarm SF fire; 1 injured, firefighters say

As she pointed out the gaping holes in the now uninhabitable apartment along Leavenworth Street, Shivani explained how thieves entered the building, not once, but twice after the blaze.

"They took more of my valuables, maybe about $10,000 and a lot more stuff," she said.

Neighbor Cory Virok, who saved the man in the burning apartment unit Wednesday by dragging him out and helping him down the stairs says he's fed up with the crime.

"I've personally chased off a bunch (of suspects) one was last night with a crowbar," said Virok.

Tenants of the building say they've experienced package theft and break-ins in the past but that these consecutive crimes, especially after a fire that initially displaced nearly two dozen people including a 97-year-old grandma, are distressing.

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Debbie Thompson has lived in the building about 20 years and says, "I haven't gotten any sleep since... none. I have bloodshot eyes. I'm living in fear. I'm living in fear of people getting into the unit all day long."

ABC7 News has covered a number of stories about burglary happening after a wildfire but we wanted to know if this is type of crime is happening across the city.

Capitan Jonathan Baxter of the San Francisco Fire Department says while there are no concrete numbers, they are hearing of more theft of property after the property is released back to the owner.

"This is why it's so important for property owners and landlords listen to the advice that we give to them after every fire in San Francisco on the importance of securing the building," said Cpt. Baxter.

INTERACTIVE: Take a look at the ABC7 Neighborhood Safety Tracker

Shivani and others echoed the same sentiment - they were worried about their building being properly secured after the fire. ABC7 News saw crews closing up the ceiling of the top floor with plywood Friday morning.

ABC7 News also reached out to the building owner and are waiting a response. In the meantime, Shivani says she is sharing her story for the safety of everyone in the community.

"My main reason for speaking out is I want to raise awareness something like this happened. I wonder if any of that could have been prevented. This is something I'll def think about next time I choose a place to live," she said.

The Red Cross says they're now assisting seven residents. Shivani has set up a GoFundMe to help her displaced neighbors try and rebuild.

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