South City blaze displaces kids, elderly

A three-alarm blaze, one of the most serious in recent city memory, scorched an Alida Way apartment complex Tuesday afternoon, displacing up to 50 inhabitants, most of whom were elderly or families with children.

No one was seriously hurt in the fire, which started in a first-floor unit in the 36-unit Twin Manor complex, located at 382 Alida Way, South San Francisco fire Chief Phil White said. An elderly woman, living in the unit that first caught fire, escaped with smoke-inhalation concerns.

The South San Francisco Fire Department was alerted at 4:24 p.m. Within minutes of arriving, fire officials said, the ground-floor fire spread to the floors above it, scorching second- and third-floor unitsand prompting a building evacuation. Nine units were affected by the fire and resulting water damage.

Five residents complained of smoke inhalation, three of whom were treated and released at the scene and two of whom were taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation, White said.

To help residents escape, firefighters extended ladders to windows and brought them out. As firefighters tossed still-smoldering bits of bedding and mattress, Twin Manor residents banded together in a neighboring carport and wondered what was next. Some were told they could re-enter their homes late Tuesday.

Resident Shellie DeMarco, who lives two doors down from the unit that caught fire, was watching 9/11 anniversary news when she heard of the fire and ran downstairs, clutching neighbors’ cats. “It was just so unreal,” De Marco said.

Eight to 10 pets were reported missing, White said. Humane Society officers were standing by Tuesday in case the animals turned up later.

White said 55 firefighters arrived at the scene, 20 of them from South San Francisco and the rest from agencies as close as San Bruno and as far away as San Mateo and Pacifica.

Cargill timeline

Progression of 1,433-acre Cargill salt plant

1901: Redwood City Saltworks begins operations.

1978: Cargill Salt purchases property.

1982: Mobil Oil plans to develop waterfront city next to Cargill site. A referendum overturned plans and created protections for what is now Bair Island.

2002: Cargill offers more than 17,000 acres of its Bay Area salt ponds to state and federal governments. The government purchases 16,500 acres for wetlands restoration, but does not purchase the Redwood City property.

June 2004: Redwood Cityapproves plans for high-rise housing, at Peninsula Marina and Pete’s Harbor, called Marina Shores Village.

November 2004: A referendum overturns Marina Shores.

2006: Cargill announces plans to shut down its Redwood City salt plant and explore redevelopment.

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