Monday, July 26, 2010

Another Manic Monday: Roofing + Blowtorches = FIRE

Monday, July 26th, 2010
Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, California

The World or - at the very least - my beloved Haight-Ashbury District was still slowly awakening and still gloriously peaceful at around 9:30am this Monday morning.

As for me, I was awake and sitting in front of my computer, scanning the internet in search of unique and/or under-reported national/international news stories.
Photo Courtesy of L.A. S.F.,CA

At one point, my focused headline-reading was suddenly interrupted by a cacophony of sounds which - if you live in a wooden building that is also surrounded by other wooden buildings - you prefer not to hear.

Living on Haight Street - a busy place with or without the perpetual influx and parade of tourists (many of them shockingly discourteous photo-bugs) - demands that you either adapt to your surroundings by developing the finely-tuned ability to block out the (frequently raucous) street noises or simply re-locate.

Being a long-time resident, I've developed such skills.

Even so, there remain certain sounds which you never would want to filter out.

This... the shrill, wailing, high-decibel sirens emanating from fire-trucks, ambulances and police cars, was one of those sounds.

The increasing volume and density of the unsynchronized sirens told me two things:
1.)There were four or five fire-trucks behind those sirens and...
2.)The emergency vehicles firing on all cylinders were speeding directly toward my neck of the urban jungle.

I wasn't overly-worried, but I feel that events like this call for taking a few moments to further investigate.

When I opened my windows, the first thing I saw was an ambulance parked across the street - facing the wrong way. The two well-trained EMTs had already set their gear atop a gurney and had positioned it alongside their vehicle.

A glance down the street confirmed the presence of (at least) four San Francisco Fire Deparment (SFFD) trucks already on scene half a block away - with numerous firefighters suited up (some approaching the entrance to a building and others drawing out fire-hoses). I could still hear more sirens approaching from the distance, so it wasn't looking promising for the situation to turn out to be a false alarm.

I'd also noted the presence of several workmen on the sidewalk in front of The Wasteland Vintage Clothing Store (located at 1660 Haight Street); I watched as one of them scaled a precariously-perched (as no one held onto it at the bottom, when someone climbed it moved and rattled a lot) aluminum ladder leading up to the roof; there were also workers on the roof.

By the time I'd gotten my keys and purse in hand and looked out the window again, police cars had pulled into position on the corners to prevent civilian vehicle traffic, MUNI buses and those damned double-decker tourist buses from getting too close to the operation.

As my Faithful Companion and I reached the street, the officers were lighting flares and placing them in the road.

Thankfully, as I neared the focus of all the activity, there were no flames nor billowing smoke to be seen.

As we walked past the structure at 1654 Haight Street, above the El Balazo Restaurant, I saw that the other Fire Department vehicles I'd heard had arrived. Seeing movement on Wasteland's roof, I glanced up and saw that several firefighters were now up there and were hard at work removing a number of long, wooden planks from the exterior wall of two of the flats located above the restaurant - most likely to confirm that there were no flames or hot-spots within the exterior wall.

A friend of mine who lives in the affected building was standing across the street. He informed me that the fire was apparently started, accidentally, by the group of workmen who had been toiling on the roof of The Wasteland... with blowtorches.

My guess is that, most-likely, they were re-tarring the roof.

According to my friend, the upper and lower apartments on that side of the building were damaged by fire, smoke and water. Hopefully, the concrete building that is home to The Wasteland is undamaged.

*If I may offer a suggestion to anyone working with a blowtorch and potentially flammable materials (like tar, wood): It may be prudent to bring along a fire-extinguisher or two... just in case.

Coincidentally, the last significant fire I'd personally witnessed broke out only a few doors down from this event, on Dec. 22, 2009. The result of that blaze: the three-alarm fire burned through the street-level Tikka Masala Restaurant; through two flats of apartments above the restaurant and did extensive damage to Villain's Clothing Store. All of the residents escaped safely, but the businesses remain closed today.

The Wasteland Vintage Clothing Store, being constructed of concrete, suffered only smoke damage and re-opened after several days.

*Many Thanks To The San Francisco Fire Department.
I Know Our Beautiful City, Our Neighborhoods And Our Citizens Are In The Best Hands With You.


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