The blaze prompted officials with the Fire Department and the Department of Building Inspection (DBI), weeks later, to issue an information sheet that warns construction crews to obey safety rules.
According to a Fire Department analysis for KQED, there have been 12 fires at construction sites in San Francisco so far this year. That compares with 37 for all of 2013 and 33 in 2012.
One of the most recent was near the city's Civic Center earlier this month. A three-alarm fire at the old Renoir Hotel at Market and McAllister streets injured eight workers on Aug. 4. State officials said welding sparks may have caused the fire, but the Fire Department has yet to release an official cause.
In an interview, Wong, an assistant deputy chief, said the citywide surge in construction presents a fire risk.
“With the wood-frame buildings, I’m definitely more concerned, especially with these housing developments and also the affordable housing developments the mayor is pushing for,” Wong said.
In fact, over the last two fiscal years the building inspection department has hired 28 inspectors. DBI officials plan to hire even more.
"The city is in the midst of a building boom and that is certainly a driving factor in our efforts to hire more inspectors to try and keep up with current demand," said Bill Strawn, a spokesman for the department.
Wong is in talks with Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White to formulate an official proposal to extend the fire watch requirement to an hour. That proposal, if approved by the city’s Fire Commission, would then go to the Board of Supervisors.
The idea for the extension already has been endorsed by DBI. Strawn said the department supports expanding the fire watch timeline, and Tom Hui, the agency’s director, recently signed an amended information sheet that also calls for increasing the fire watch requirement.
It’s unclear how the local construction industry feels about the proposal. Calls to the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area have yet to be returned.
At least one local expert thinks there could be other more effective ways to reduce the risk of construction project fires in the city instead of expanding the fire watch. David Rich is a principal at Reax Engineering, a Berkeley-based consulting firm made up of combustion and fire scientists specializing in fire safety design and code consulting.
"The extension of time can't hurt, but there's little research showing how long the transition from smolder to open flaming could take," Rich said. "It would also be important to make sure the watchers were trained in what to look for and were diligent in inspecting areas that were combustible and close to hot work operations for signs of smoldering that could transition to open flaming later."
The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health quietly began investigating T.C. Steel three months after the Mission Bay Fire. Cal/OSHA launched a probe into the company in connection with work it is doing at a nearby job site, 701 China Basin.
Officials with that agency say the investigation was prompted by a surprise inspection, focusing on T.C. Steel's responsibility to prevent crews involved in "hot work" from becoming ill during hot weather.
Cal/OSHA officials are not releasing many details about their investigation into T.C. Steel, other than to emphasize that it is not connected to the Mission Bay fire.
It turns out T.C. Steel is now working on the project brought to a halt by the March 11 fire. According to the city's Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, the company is a subcontractor on the Fourth Street structure that went up in flames. Suffolk Construction, like last time, is the main contractor. And, BRE Properties, now part of Essex Property Trust, is still the developer. All three companies are involved in a number of other projects in Mission Bay as well.