Cause remains unclear in devastating SF Mission Street fire

San Francisco fire investigators have determined where a massive fire started on Mission Street near 29th Street Saturday.

They say it started in the Cole Hardware Store building, but wouldn't say if the fire started in the store or in one of the four apartment units upstairs. They say they still don't know the cause. 

The building damaged five buildings, gutting two of them, including the Cole Hardware Building.

We spoke with the owner before fire officials announced the place of origin.

"It's pretty devastating. It is unbelievable to see something that's the heart and soul of our business fall through the ground, literally," said Rick Karp.

Fire officials said they found no fire violations at any of the buildings.

"We were working in the buildings. The sprinkler system was working," said Jonathan Baxter, fire department spokesman.

The five-alarm fire broke out Saturday afternoon and quickly became an inferno. It took firefighters four hours to get it under control.

A few fortunate residents were able to return to one apartment briefly and retrieve whatever was salvageable enough to put in plastic bags.

57 people have been displaced, many staying in shelters provided by the Red Cross.

Many come from the single room occupancy (SRO) hotel— The Greywood, which was badly damaged, but can be repaired.

City records show the Greywood had 50 complaints against it, but the city says they were relatively minor and not a factor in the fire.

The city is looking to find housing for the displaced residents and is asking landlords to step up and find temporary housing.