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