Stubborn blaze leads to demise of historic S.F. building

A historic South of Market building next to The City’s firefighters union headquarters will need to be demolished after a stubborn one-alarm fire Tuesday blazed and smoldered within the building for more than 18 hours.

Two firefighters were hurt, one when the ceiling of 1133 Mission St. fell on his head and the other from minor burns, according to department spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge. The blaze was first reported at 6:51 a.m., she said, and firefighters would be watching the fire into the night. The injured firefighters are in good shape after being treated at the hospital and released. The structure, however, will not survive.

Authorities closed Mission Street between Seventh and Eighth streets while firefighters battled the blaze from ladders and the street, disrupting traffic and the 14-Mission bus line.

The block will be closed Wednesday morning and possibly for days, depending on when equipment can be hired for an emergency demolition, Department of Building Inspection spokesman Bill Strawn said.

“The building is going to have to come down,” Strawn said. “It’s so weakened by the fire that we don’t want to run the safety risk that it will fall on its own.”

The building was once home to an Irish fraternal organization, Knights of the Red Branch, and the site of several raucous Prohibition-era parties.

Gerard Boyle, who is the listed owner of the property, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that Knights of the Red Branch is now a corporation. The 1909 building had recently been rented to a “Chinese religious group” and he said he had yet to assess the damage to the property.

Talmadge said the current tenants were renovating the building, and on Monday night there were workers inside. The blaze lasted so long because the building’s masonry was never reinforced and once the first injury occurred, dozens of firefighters were pulled from the building.

At Firefighters Local 798 headquarters next door, union representatives could be seen working inside around 11:15 a.m. even as flames erupted from the roof next door. By the end of the day, the building had been red-tagged, meaning it was unfit for entry.

Union Secretary Frank Kelley said the building was finally evacuated and he didn’t have the chance to go back in to assess the damage.

Muni spokesman Alan Siegel said the 14-Mission bus would be rerouted along Market Street and back to Mission Street as long as the closure lasts. He recommended, however, that commuters use public transportation along Market Street.

bbegin@examiner.com

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