SAN FRANCISCO - By the time San Francisco firefighters arrived at the Gateway Apartments, heavy fire and smoke was already visible from the southern face of the 22-story building.
“I’m really shaken up. Didn’t really – not the way I expected to wake up this morning,” said Ron Pripitaul, a 16th floor resident forced to evacuate.
Fire investigators say the flames started around 1:40 a.m. Friday, on the 11th floor. 22 units on that floor were damaged, as well as one unit on the 12th floor.
“Due to the fact that there are no sprinklers in this building, it was able to get a little bit of a head start on us. But everything that we brought here is what put out the fire today,” said San Francisco Fire Dept. Chief Janine Nicholson.
A total of five residents suffered minor injuries, and will recover according to the fire dept. Several victims were rescued by firefighters, while others were able to make it out on their own.
“When I got out of my apartment, the smoke was coming down the hallway. And so people were evacuating,” said Margaret, a resident who wanted her last name withheld.
In 2018, this same apartment building, at 440 Davis Court, had a fire on floors 12-thru-16 that displaced 30 residents. Fire officials say that emergency served as a template, and led to the preservation of life this time.
“It’s obvious that they had a plan, that they’ve practiced their plan to get people evacuated out safely. And it worked today,” said Lt. Jonathan Baxter, a spokesman for the SFFD.
Fire investigators have begun the search for the cause of the fire, while the Red Cross works to house those residents who’ve been effected.
Officials say the 1960’s era building doesn’t have sprinklers is because it isn’t required by law. Older buildings are “grandfathered” in to avoiding current codes, because retrofitting would be cost prohibitive. San Francisco supervisors are now considering changing that law.