Noe Valley Voice October 2011

Benefit Planned for Tenants in 24th Street Fire

Blaze Causes Losses Estimated At $950,000

By Tim Innes


Damage to the property at 4049–51 24th St. was significant, estimated at $700,000.Thankfully, no one was injured in the Sept. 10 blaze.    Photo by Pamela Gerard

A benefit is planned for Thursday, Oct. 6, to help tenants displaced by a fire that raced through their 24th Street building on Sept. 10.

The fundraiser, featuring a raffle with prizes, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Valley Tavern, 4054 24th St.

Proceeds will help the seven residents, only one of whom had insurance, replace clothing, furniture, and other belongings lost in the fire. Photographer Randy ­Drevland, whose room was a charred ruin, lost everything, including his cameras.

The blaze, which engulfed the rear of the upper floors of the three-story building at 4049-4051 24th St., was reported at 3:49 p.m. and quickly upgraded to two alarms. More than 60 firefighters swarmed to the scene and had the fire out by 4:27 p.m., according to San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge.

The smoky fire snarled traffic on Noe Valley’s main street and attracted a large crowd of onlookers, many of them snapping away with digital and cell-phone cameras.

Damage to the wood-frame building, which housed a Radio Shack store on the ground floor, was estimated at $700,000. Another $250,000 in personal property was destroyed, according to the incident report.

The Wells Fargo Bank branch next door sustained minor smoke and water damage but opened as usual on Monday, Sept. 12.

The fire began on the roof, sparked by smoking materials, according to the report.

The only tenant at home when the fire broke out, Gonzalo Alonso, 27, said he was in his room near the front of the third-floor apartment when he smelled smoke. Investigating, he saw “a huge cloud of smoke and big flames coming from the back.” He said the fire was already too advanced to try to put out by himself, so he grabbed his phone and called 911 as he fled down the stairs.

“I feel bad for the tenants,” said owner Diane Connell, who lives in Napa. “I’ll do everything I can to have the damage repaired so they can move back in. I’d like to get started on it by the beginning of October, but I’m at the mercy of my insurance company, the Fire Department, and the building department. It is what it is.”

Connell said a priority would be making the storefront watertight so the Radio Shack could reopen. Meantime, a sign on the door directs customers to Radio Shack outlets on Market and Mission streets.

The displaced tenants, who were initially taken in by friends, have found places in the Castro to stay until repairs are completed. Six have rented a house together; the seventh has moved into an apartment.

“We’re a team now, and we support each other,” said Christina Vo, 31, who had lived in her second-floor apartment only since July. “I have a strong sense we’ll always be part of each other’s lives after going through this together.

“I do hope to return to the house when it’s completed,” said Vo. “I love the place and the neighborhood. But, I also know that I should keep my options open because you never know where life will take you.”

An account—No. 3191560626—has been opened for the residents at Wells Fargo Bank. Those who wish to help but are unable to attend the benefit may send contributions there. For more information, contact Catherine Bergstrom at or call 415-894-2284.