Arson suspected in apartment fire

A man was arrested on suspicion of arson after a two-alarm fire broke out in a Tenderloin apartment complex Sunday morning.

Flames flooded apartment No. 7 on the second floor of the 26-unit complex at 550 Leavenworth St. around 8:30 a.m. and tore through two stories above it, fire officials said.

A neighbor who lived in unit No. 6, which is now missing a wall because of the fire, said he woke up to people yelling from outside that there was smoke spilling out No. 7’s window.

“I looked out my window and see that there’s light smoke coming out the cracks. I was the one to call 911. Then the alarm went off,” said Matt Fondacaro, 24, who said he moved in about nine months ago. “The whole room was just engulfed in flames. Firefighters threw debris from the second story, smoldering remnants of things. It was insane.”

Fondacaro and other residents said they saw the resident in No. 7 being handcuffed, but police did not confirm whether the person arrested was the same man.

Within minutes the flames burst through the window, crawled up the outside shingles and burned through two floors above, causing a two-alarm blaze that took more than 60 firefighters and 40 minutes to contain, fire officials said.

SFFD Division Chief Vince Nolan said it had been burning for 10 minutes by the time firefighters arrived, which is when they called a second alarm.

No one was injured, but no one in the building will be able to return home for at least two more nights. The Red Cross is assisting 25 residents with finding shelter, but officials did not know the total displaced.

It is the second high-profile apartment fire in the Tenderloin since a woman ignited her mattress amid a domestic dispute in Trinity Towers at O’Farrell and Larkin streets, then killed herself by jumping out a window in August, according to police.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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