For the last three years, Shafique Gorsi has kept his Haight-Ashbury restaurant, Tikka Masala, open on Christmas Day to give people in The City a place to spend the holiday.
But once he saw his shattered storefront mixed with piles of rubble after a three-alarm fire ravaged the building on Tuesday morning, he knew that tradition was over.
More than 90 firefighters from 11 engines and five trucks responded to flames around 4:30 a.m. at 1668 Haight St. on Tuesday. The fire raced up the three-story wooden structure, charring several of the apartments above and then racing through the adjacent Villain’s Clothing store.
“This is just awful. I have no idea how this happened,” said Gorsi, who hours after the fire was still unable to go inside because it was too dangerous. “How am I supposed to clean this up? I can’t do it by myself.”
In addition to destroying the Indian restaurant’s Christmas tradition, Tuesday morning’s inferno also torched the season for the two households living in flats above the restaurant, and gutted a neighboring clothing store.
The fire started in the restaurant’s private owner entrance — which also houses electrical meters — although the cause of the fire has not been determined, fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.
No one was in the restaurant at the time, but five adults, two children and a cat were in the second- and third-floor flats upstairs they call home.
They were able to evacuate safely, but will likely not be able to return home by Christmas.
The flat on the second story had holes kicked through the walls where firefighters had to check for smoldering flames before the fire was contained. In one of the two bedrooms, the floor was covered with wood chips sitting in ash among stuffed animals and clothes for a little girl. The rest of that flat was similarly charred and the family will not be able to go home for at least a week.
The clothing store next door also did not fare well.
Two of the three main rooms at Villains Clothing were completely destroyed, likely because it was a wooden structure, Talmadge said.
Villains Clothing manager Morgan Boullion said she got a call from the security alarm company and showed up at 5 a.m.
“I saw the shattered storefront. I knew it was our store,” Boullion said. “It’s a shame it had to happen during the holidays.”
No injuries were reported in the fire and the evacuated families are not staying in shelters, according to the Red Cross. A family’s cat was missing, but later was seen in the neighborhood.
Gorsi said he has no idea when he will open his doors again.
Bay City News contributed to this report.