Noe Valley Voice July-August 2000

Two Victorians Severely Damaged in 23rd Street Fire

By Henry Weverka with Zach Goldstein

The first time I saw the fire was when I was walking home from school with my dad. We had turned the corner of Eureka and 23rd streets. Gray smoke was rising into the air, and the wind was really blowing. My dad erupted, "Holy sh--!" He ran into Bernstein Realty to call the Fire Station. I didn't know what to do. Finally, my father came back. He said that Bernstein Realty had already called the Fire Department.

As we ran down 23rd Street toward Diamond, we heard sirens. People were out on the street, some crying, and some very scared. My dad and I went to our neighbor's, the Goldsteins', house and stood on their front steps to get a better look at the action. As the fire trucks kept coming (Engines 6, 7, 10, 11, and 12, and Trucks 7 and 11), my friend Zach Goldstein showed up with his mom, Maribeth. She was very scared about her friend Patti Wood. She thought it was Wood's house that was on fire, but it was Patti's next-door neighbor.

We went up to the top of the stairs to get a better look and saw flames inside the building and small flames on the roof. From the basement, dark gray smoke rose into the air. It really stunk.

Firemen (and women) began to gear up -- putting their oxygen tanks over their backs, holding long spear-like tools, chain saws, and axes. Some had clear masks to protect their faces and eyes. They began breaking the front windows. One of them chopped the front door down as they walked straight into billowing black smoke with their hoses.

Two ladders were put up -- one on Patti's house and one on the house that was on fire. Firefighters went up the ladders with hoses, and they used chain saws and axes to break into the roof. From where we were watching, we could see them swinging their axes into the roof. Suddenly, huge flames rose from the roof. They began shooting the water inside the house from their spots on the roof. Minutes after they were on the roof, one of the firefighters slipped and fell to the neighbor's roof. Flames went over his head. Two or three minutes later, we saw him again down on the street, breathing hard, getting oxygen from a tank.

Zach and I thought it was really scary to see the firefighters walking into the burning house. The firefighters were very brave and should be applauded for their bravery.

Editor's Note: The Voice thanks Henry Weverka and Zach Goldstein, both 11, for sending in their eyewitness report of a fire at 4175­77 23rd Street the afternoon of May 25. Luckily, no one -- including firefighters --was seriously hurt. However, two buildings suffered major damage, forcing the residents to find alternative lodgings.