Electrical short likely cause of fatal Mission blaze, says fire department

The fatal four-alarm fire that killed one person, displaced over 60 people, and rendered a large mixed-use building in the Mission District uninhabitable in January was likely caused by an electrical short, according to a preliminary Fire Department investigation.

Smoke detectors also failed to go off at the three-story building at 22nd and Mission streets, which had a history of uncorrected fire code violations, according to fire officials.

The fire killed resident Mauricio Orellana, 40. A medical examiner’s investigation into his death has not been completed.

The fire originated in a wall on the third floor of the building, where Orellana and other residents had rent-controlled apartments above offices and ground-floor retail, Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge told the San Francisco Examiner on Wednesday.

Investigators “could not rule out” an “unspecified electrical fault” in the wall as the cause of the fire, Talmadge said. That, and the location of the fire’s origin inside a wall, led investigators to conclude the fire was accidental.

In addition to faulty smoke detectors, fire escapes at the building were blocked and the building’s fire alarm failed to go off, according to residents, some of whom said they found out their building was on fire only thanks to arriving Fire Department personnel.

Fire alarms in San Francisco multiunit buildings are inspected and certified annually. The building’s fire alarm certification was set to expire at midnight Jan. 30, a little over five hours after the fire broke out.

The fire and a second fatal fire in the Mission District have led to calls from public officials for increased fire safety.

Supervisor Jane Kim has called for sprinklers to be mandated in multi-unit apartment buildings. Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission, called for the formation of a fire task force to come up with ways to improve fire safety.

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