Young couple expecting first baby homeless after Sunset District fire

A young couple expecting their first baby was moving into a new apartment in San Francisco’s Sunset District after struggling to find housing for six months when a two-alarm blaze broke out Friday evening, destroying their new home.

It took about an hour for firefighters to control the fire after it started in the three-story residence in the 1800 block of Noriega Street at 6:41 p.m. Friday.

Three people — including Rachel Elana Strobel and her boyfriend, Luke Miller — were taken to a hospital after the fire and a total of nine people were displaced.

Now Strobel and Miller have started an online fundraiser to find a new home. They spent months looking for a steady home and thought they’d found it in the five-unit Sunset District building, but that dream went up in smoke along with many of their belongings.

Supervisor Katy Tang, who represents the Sunset District, posted the couple’s fundraiser on her Facebook page Monday.

“One of the families from the fire that occurred on Friday on 21st near Noriega is about to have a baby — and everything was destroyed in the fire,” Tang wrote. “So glad they got out safely!”

Strobel and Miller had moved back to the Bay Area from Texas about six months ago. They were staying with family in the Sacramento area but when that became impossible they set out to find an apartment that would take their Section 8 voucher.

But this proved challenging, Strobel said during an interview Tuesday. After months of looking, they found the third floor apartment on Noriega Street. The woman who owns the building had never taken Section 8 vouchers before but was willing to because of the tough situation the couple was in.

They signed a lease last Thursday and started moving in. Miller picked Strobel up from a temporary job doing office work on Friday and planned to go to the store to pick up some food for dinner that night, but just as he was getting ready to leave, Strobel smelled smoke coming from the open window.

She asked Miller to go downstairs and check it out and Miller found flames coming from the downstairs apartment windows.

They rushed out of the apartment and onto the street, frantically calling 911 and their new landlord to tell her what was going on.

The fire apparently started when the couple’s downstairs neighbor left a pan with oil unattended on the stove, according to Strobel.

The woman who lived in that apartment rushed back in to rescue her dog. She, Strobel and Miller all had to go to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire spread through the ceiling, gutting Strobel and Miller’s new kitchen and bathroom and destroyed most of the possessions they’d already moved in, including all of their new baby clothes and their crib.

Now they’re back looking for an apartment again. The American Red Cross has been helping them with a hotel voucher, but that will run out in about two days and they don’t have enough money to keep staying there. Miller works as a handyman and landscaper so employment can be sporadic.

The couple started a GoFundMe page on Saturday and have raised $670 of a $10,000 goal as of this morning. The page is available at

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