Home   Google ARCHIVE SEARCH: Date:

Fatal fire was accidental, firefighters injured

By Tamara Barak

May 18, 2007

An early morning three-alarm fire at a Mission District apartment building that killed a man, critically injured his mother and displaced at least 31 people appears to have started accidentally.

"The initial investigation indicates this is an accidental fire that started in the interior of the structure in one of the units," San Francisco fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.

The exact cause of the fire was unknown, she said. The building, at 27-31 Duboce Ave., has been red-tagged as has an adjacent structure at 25 Duboce Ave. A third building on Woodward Street behind the fire sustained exterior damage, Talmadge said.

A man found dead in his third floor flat was a 55-year-old limo driver and father of five who lived with his mother, according to a neighbor and friend of the family.

Virginia Ramos said she has been a friend of the man's 78-year-old mother, who was taken to San Francisco General Hospital after the fire, for more than 20 years.

The medical examiner's office this morning had not identified the man.

The woman suffered serious injuries, including burns to both hands, Talmadge said. Talmadge confirmed the pair was a mother and son.

Ramos described her injured friend as a feisty woman who is quick to help anyone who needs assistance. Ramos, known as The Tamale Lady because of her popular itinerant tamale business, said her friend regularly helps her cook tamales to sell to Mission District bar patrons.

"We would talk for hours. We would be in the kitchen together arguing and wrestling and cooking tamales. She's a strong woman, but this is going to really affect her," Ramos said.

Ramos described her friend's son as "a nice man" and a father. None of his children lived in the unit, she said.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries in the blaze, Talmadge said. They were transported to a local hospital, where they were treated and released.

Meanwhile the number of people displaced by the fire has risen to 31 and that number is expected to swell significantly, according to Woody Baker-Cohn, spokesman for the Bay Area chapter of the American Red Cross.

Though 31 displaced residents have been identified, twenty-eight units were affected by the blaze.

"It's pretty clear the number of people displaced is much higher," Baker-Cohn said, adding that undocumented immigrants often don't return to their burned-out homes for fear they will be turned in to authorities.

Baker-Cohn said there is nothing to fear from accepting help from the Red Cross, which never shares its information with immigration authorities.

A shelter has been set up for residents at a nearby park and recreation center. Eighteen of the 31 displaced people are accepting aid from the Red Cross, while the rest are staying with friends or family, Talmadge said.

The blaze was first reported at 1:53 a.m. and was upgraded to a three-alarm response four minutes after fire crews arrived, according to fire officials. The flames were contained around 3 a.m.

"It was a very stubborn fire that they fought very aggressively. Firefighters made an interior attack and they were chasing it around the walls and the attic," Talmadge said.

Red Cross officials urged anyone interested in helping the fire victims to call 1-888-HELP BAY or visit http://www.redcrossbayarea.org.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




The Hunger Site

Cooking Classes
in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires B&B

Calitri in southern Italy

L' Aquila in Abruzzo

Health Insurance Quotes


Bruce Brugmann's


Civic Center

Dan Noyes

Greg Dewar

Griper Blade


Malik Looper






MetroWize Urban Guide

Michael Moore

N Judah Chronicles


Robert Solis

SF Bay Guardian





SFWillie's Blog



Sweet Melissa