Oscar Lepe might not have heard someone pounding on his apartment windows and ringing the doorbell had he not gotten up early Sunday morning to move his car.
Next door, the Rolling Stock tire shop in the Mission was gutted by flames, and the side of the three-story apartment building where Lepe lived with his elderly parents was scorched.
“It could have been worse,” said Lepe, who was among the 17 adults, four children and one animal displaced by the three-alarm blaze that broke out just before 8 a.m. at 16th and Shotwell streets, according to the Fire Department.
On Monday morning, Lepe, 46, along with his brother and father, stood outside of the wreckage in the place his family once called home. The cause of the fire remains undetermined.
“As long as everybody’s all right, that’s a good [thing],” said Gregorio Lepe Jr., 51, who was raised in the apartment building and met his wife there back when she was 11 years old. His father, Gregorio Lepe Sr., moved into the place in 1972.
Gregorio Lepe Jr. and his wife now live in South San Francisco, where they’re hosting his displaced parents and brother. “Maybe something good will come out of this,” he said.
Oscar Lepe lost his comic book collection to water damage, which he was selling off on Ebay. Firefighters tore the window framing from their unit, the electronics inside were ruined and “everything’s soaked,” Gregorio Lepe Jr. said.
The Lepe family did not have renter’s insurance, he said. They made it out of the home with small items, like photographs, but lost much else. “Within 10 minutes the flames were all the way to the top … the third floor,” said Gregorio Lepe Jr.
In total, the Fire Department estimates that $2 million in damages was incurred by the Rolling Stock tire shop.
The apartment building, where the Lepes lived in one of six units, experienced $750,000 in property damage and $250,000 in content damage.
The tire shop has since been red-tagged, and the Lepes aren’t sure when they can move back in.
Ninety-five firefighters and 31 pieces of fire equipment responded to the blaze, the Fire Department said.