Russian consulate cited for smoking chimney day before closure

Smoke is seen coming out of the Russian consulate in San Francisco. Sept. 1, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN)-- The Bay Area Air Quality Management District today issued a Notice of Violation to the now-shuttered Russian consulate in San Francisco, where smoke was seen coming from the building's chimney a day before the Russians were ordered to leave earlier this month.

"We're issuing a violation for burning garbage," air district spokesman Ralph Borrmann said. "Their staff will be in touch with our settlement staff to look at the circumstances and settle the violation."

The case started when firefighters responded shortly before 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 1 to the consulate at 2790 Green St. in the city's Pacific Heights neighborhood after a smoke alarm went off and smoke was seen coming
from the chimney, San Francisco fire spokesman Jonathan Baxter said.

Fire crews responded and determined it was a false alarm, but onlookers continued to see black smoke coming from the chimney on what was an unseasonably hot day in the city. The air district, which also responded to the consulate to investigate, had issued a Spare the Air alert for the day.

"It was clear they weren't burning seasoned dry wood," Borrmann said. "There was a lot of black smoke, lots of onlookers saw it, and because of the thickness and blackness of the smoke, it was clear it was some kind of
garbage or material that isn't permitted for burning."

He said there isn't a dollar amount attached to the violation yet and that the settlement process "can take anywhere from several weeks to months."

The incident was a day before the building was ordered by the U.S. State Department to close amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia and a recent decision by the Russians to reduce the number of American diplomatic staff allowed in their country.

After the announcement that the consulate in San Francisco had to close, officials from the consulate called it an "unfriendly" step by the U.S. that will hurt both Russian citizens living in the area and Americans seeking tourist visas to travel to Russia.

In December, then-President Barack Obama had announced that four employees and their families would be expelled from the San Francisco consulate as part of sanctions against Russia for allegedly interfering in
the U.S. election through computer hacking and harassing U.S. diplomats abroad.

Donald Trump won the presidential election in November and is now under investigation about possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government.