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3-alarm fire sends patrons fleeing from North Beach bar, closes neighboring businesses

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A three alarm fire at Fiddler’s Green of San Francisco has left parts of the building gutted and adjacent businesses empty. (Ian Williams/S.F. Examiner)

Patrons ran from a bar in North Beach late Monday night after the building caught fire, displacing nine people and forcing the closure of several businesses, officials said Tuesday.

The three-alarm fire broke out in the 117-year-old building that houses Fiddler’s Green at 1333 Columbus Ave. shortly before midnight, forcing those inside to flee. Unfinished drinks still lined the bar and street-side tables late Tuesday morning.

A residential unit above the pub also suffered damage, displacing a family of five tourists staying there. One firefighter suffered a cut during the fight, but was treated and released at the scene. The American Red Cross has been called to help the family and four others displaced by the fire.

The floor above the bar was burned out Tuesday and appeared to have suffered the most damage, while the bar itself was waterlogged.

A tidy pile of ash and the smell of smoke drew tourists and locals to investigate the gutted remains of what some neighbors consider an institution.

“It’s such a historic place,” said Damien Joseph, who works around the corner at the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Passing pedestrians stopped to stare into the tinted glass doors of the bar, which were chained shut.

“What the hell happened here?” said Nicole Young, a beer representative who worked with the pub. “I feel terrible for the people who worked here.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to Lt. Jonathan Baxter of the San Francisco Fire Department.

Although this fire was devastating, the response was successful. The building housing Fiddler’s Green, at 1333 Columbus Ave., is positioned tightly between two others. Holding a large fire to one building, Baxter said, is rare.

“More times than not that fire extends to the other buildings,” he said. “We were fortunate.”

Neighbors, too, were happy with the SFFD’s response.

“They did a good job in saving the building,” said Nathan Withrington, CEO of GoCar Tours, the company that rents out the yellow three-wheeled vehicles commonly seen in the summer months.

Withrington does business out of the building adjacent to Fiddler’s Green, which serves as what he calls the nerve-center for GoCar Tours.

Firefighters broke down the glass door to his building and tore out a portion of a wall while fighting the fire. He didn’t mind. “It could have been so much worse,” he said.

Withrington’s offices were empty Tuesday, and he expects them to remain that way for awhile. July is the busiest time of year for GoCar Tours, but fortunately much of Withrington’s equipment was saved and he can continue the business from another location.

“In the short term, at least for the next couple of days, we should be fine,” he said.

GoCar Tours and Fiddler’s Green, weren’t the only businesses effected by the fire. Camera Zone and Art Gallery at 1365 Columbus Ave. was partially flooded and smelled strongly of smoke Tuesday.

“The boss says we’re gonna close shop,” said Dar Sefidi, an employee at the store. “I think it’s going to be for some time.”

There is no word on how long Fiddler’s Green will be closed, and the bar’s management was not immediately available for comment.

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Ash and debris was piled next to Fiddler's Green of San Francisco after firefighters extinguished a three-alarm fire in the building early Tuesday morning (Ian Williams/S.F. Examiner)

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