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S.F. Fire Department: Cole Hardware Building the Source of 5-Alarm Blaze

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The aftermath on June 19 of a five-alarm fire that started the previous day in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood, burned six buildings and displaced 57 people. (Todd Lappin via flickr)

A fire that burned six buildings and displaced 57 people in San Francisco Saturday started in a mixed-use commercial/residential building that housed a hardware store on its ground floor, city fire officials said Monday.

Whether the flames ignited in Cole Hardware or one of four residential units above it was still under investigation, San Francisco Fire Department spokesman Jonathan Baxter said.

"At this point, we are not confirming that it was the hardware store or the residential component that was the actual origin," he said. The building is located at 3312, 3314 and 3316 Mission Street.

About half of those displaced lived in the adjacent, single-resident occupancy Graywood Hotel, according to a San Francisco Human Services Agency official.

The Fire Department said smoke alarms and sprinklers in the Graywood Hotel functioned during the fire, countering early reports that the systems may have failed.


"That is still completely under investigation," Baxter said, "but we do have indicators that are stating that they did work."

Baxter said witnesses and public safety officials reported hearing smoke alarms, and fire investigators found sprinkler heads that had deployed. He said sprinklers in residential buildings don't typically all deploy at once. Instead, heads deploy individually when they reach a certain temperature.

"Water sometimes causes more damage than fire," he said.

Baxter said there were no open fire complaints concerning the building or the Graywood Hotel.

Department of Building Inspection spokesman Bill Strawn said the Graywood Hotel averaged about two complaints per year for the past two decades, but most were unrelated to safety issues and all had been corrected.

"There is one open one, not in that building but a couple of doors down," Strawn said. "Somebody began to install a heating system without a permit."

But that didn't appear to have anything to do with Saturday's massive fire.

"It's only relevant from the point of view that if you're going to install a heating system, you have to have a permit to do it, and they didn't," Strawn said.

Two people were taken to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation, and a 1-year-old child was treated on the scene, Baxter said.

A shelter has been set up for people affected by the fire at the Salvation Army's Mission Corps Community Center at 1156 Valencia St., according to Red Cross spokeswoman Cynthia Shaw.

Firefighters reunited two cats and two dogs with "their human companions," Baxter said. They found no animal carcasses in any of the burned buildings and are encouraging people who see potential lost pets in the area to call Animal Care & Control at (415) 554-9400.

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