SAN FRANCISCO -- One firefighter suffered burns to his face and hands while battling a massive blaze at a nine-story condominium tower still under construction Tuesday, fire officials said late in the evening.
San Francisco Fire Department Deputy Chief of Operations Mark Gonzales told local news crews that a firefighter on the first ladder truck that arrived at the 5 p.m. blaze "got a little burned up there but didn't cop to it until four or five hours later."
The firefighter was taken to a hospital and was expected to "make a full recovery," Gonzales told KCBS radio. He was one of scores who battled the five-alarm blaze and who were continuing to pour water onto it into the night.
Despite shooting flames, a dark smoke plume visible for miles and what appears to be the total loss of one building in a 360-unit complex slated for completion later this year, San Francisco breathed a sigh of relief that the conflagration had not caused further damage.
“On behalf of the residents of the city and county of San Francisco, I would like to thank Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and the approximately 150 firefighters from several San Francisco fire stations who responded to what became a five-alarm fire in our Mission Bay neighborhood today," Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement issued late Tuesday.
"Thanks to the leadership and determined action of our Fire Department, the very real potential of severe damage to other homes, businesses and structures in the neighborhood was avoided," he said.
The fire broke out at the condo construction site on 4th Street between China Basin and Mission Rock -- near AT&T Park -- about 5 p.m. and soon engulfed the structure. The top floors collapsed as crowds gathered at a distance to watch.
Sprinklers had not yet been installed in the building, identified in news reports as under development by BRE Properties. Part of the complex survived the blaze, the San Francisco Business Times reported.
A cause has not been identified but arson investigators were on the scene and were expected to return Wednesday.
"We’re told the workers got off around 3:30 p.m. so whatever was burning had about an hour and a half to smolder and get going," Hayes-White told KTVU-TV Channel 2.
The Red Cross was assisting residents from a nearby complex that suffered broken windows from the heat and was evacuated. The sprinklers in that building were triggered and are no longer operational, so residents had to find other accommodations Tuesday night.
"I saw the smoke starting in the corner and all of a sudden, flames engulfed the whole building," Julia Young told KTVU. "I knew, time to get out of here."
Hayes-White lauded her crew for saving the second building from destruction.
"This is a great save right here," Hayes-White told reporters. "To be able to save this is huge."
Mayor Lee encouraged property owners and landlords to use a good Samaritan temporary occupancy residential rent ordinance to help those displaced so that they can more easily find temporary housing, if needed.
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