Firefighters battled a four-alarm blaze in the Castro District. (Courtesy SFFD via Twitter)

Firefighters injured battling four-alarm blaze overnight in Castro District

Five firefighters were injured fighting a four-alarm fire that damaged three buildings and displaced seven people in San Francisco’s Upper Market area early Thursday morning, according to fire officials.

The fire, which was reported around 12:15 a.m. and brought under control shortly after 2 a.m., gutted buildings at 29-31 Hattie Street and at 35 Hattie St., according to Battalion Chief Charles Crane.

Both buildings have been red-tagged, Crane said.

A neighboring building, 25-27 Hattie St., did not sustain fire damage but lost most of the southern wall it shares with 29-31 Hattie and will still require extensive repairs, Crane said.

Five firefighters were injured fighting the fire, including one who broke his wrist badly in a fall. The others suffered minor injuries including cuts and bruises, Crane said.

No civilians were injured. Residents were able to safely escape from the affected buildings and from those in the surrounding area, where firefighters conducted some evacuations. Crane said smoke detectors in the buildings were operational and helped save lives.

The fire’s cause remains under investigation, but Crane said it appears that it started on the lower level of 29-31 Hattie St. and then spread upward and to the neighboring property at 35 Hattie St.

“Whenever you have this much damage, it makes the job of the fire investigators much more difficult, because you’re sifting through severely burned evidence,” Crane said. “It’s going to be a difficult job.”

Crane said the buildings are all older wood-framed construction, with no firestops to help prevent the spread of flames. The two-unit, three-story building where the fire began dates back to 1907 and the Victorian at 35 Hattie St. to 1885, according to city records.

The fire produced large flames and thick smoke, and was visible from a considerable distance, prompting multiple phone calls to 911. By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, flames had spread through much of the buildings.

A gas line was ruptured when firefighters arrived, but Crane said it was common for that to occur in large fires and might not be related to the fire’s cause. It did, however, contribute to the flames and to the difficulty in putting the fire out.

“At one point it was feeding the flames and it was very difficult to make headway,” Crane said.

The American Red Cross is providing services to the displaced residents and coordinating emergency housing for them.

Firefighters said earlier Thursday that a female tabby cat went missing from one of the affected buildings. She was last seen running out the door by someone in the neighborhood.

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