Online fundraiser launched for victims of Mission District fire

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - In San Francisco a community is coming together to try to offer a helping hand to the businesses displaced by a large fire in the Mission District on January 28.

The fire ravaged a building, located at Mission Street and 22nd, which housed 36 businesses and residents.

Those who've lost their businesses tell KTVU they're struggling to rebuild their lives. There are no signs of life inside the building because access is considered unsafe with boarded up windows and doors.

"A building isn't just a structure. You can't just think about the building. It's the people inside it," said Gabriel Medina with Mission Economic Development Agency, a nonprofit that's helping the fire victims.

The beloved building's future is now in limbo. "It's like a tomb. I can't get in there. I need my tools," said Karen Van Dine, an artist whose workshop is located on the second floor of the building.

Van Dine says she's had her work studio there for 15 years. The 73-year-old says trying to recoup her losses is a daunting task

"How am I going to start over. I can't start from scratch and that's what's required," said Van Dine.

But on Friday night, a bank kitty corner from the fire ravaged building, opened up its doors to welcome fire victims.

It became a place to get advice on low interest loans and for Mission Economic Development Agency to launch an online fundraiser for the fire damaged small businesses to help them reopen their doors. It's called the Mission Fire Business Fund.

"They were the fabric of the community. They had employees that have been displaced. We want to make sure they can return," said Medina

Those who've lost their businesses in the fire say they came to the event to find resources to rebuild.

"I'm trying to stay strong... you have to start over and learn, " said Maria Garcia who lost her hair salon and says she doesn't have the funds to open another shop.

Organizers hope to raise $100,000 in the next three weeks to help the fire victims get back on their feet.