As rent-controlled buildings continue to go up in flames, residents of the Mission District have begun to wonder openly if greedy/evil landlords really could be using arson as a technique to clear out long-term tenants. In an attempt to quell any such rumors, the San Francisco Fire Department today released a report saying that no, there doesn't appear to be an increase in arson city-wide — regardless of the documented increase in Mission District fires.
The report comes on the heels of the removal of the head of SFFD's arson task force, Captain John Darmanin, after his repeated public pronouncements that his unit was short-staffed.
At the time, Captain Darmanin was very outspoken as to why he was forced out of the role.
“Without a doubt I was pushed out. The department told me to stop asking for additional staffing,” he told KQED.
“My refusal to stay silent, my insistence that we get additional staffing, my comments that I made in a public forum at the Fire Commission meetings in recent months were not well received,” Darmanin continued.
Today's press release broke down four years of fires across the city, and tried to put them in a larger context.
"As we approach the end of 2015, the City of San Francisco has experienced a relatively normal amount of property damage fires throughout each district," begins the report. "One district that has seen a rise in property damage fires is the Mission District."
"The majority of these fires, including those in the Mission District, were ruled accidental, electrical, or undetermined," continues the report. "Around 6% of property damage fires Citywide were determined to be intentional."
The report did not specify the percentage of total fires that had an "undetermined" cause.
As to Captain Darmanin's allegations of short-staffing, KQED notes that there is a current backlog of 325 fire investigations city-wide.
Mission District Supervisor David Campos spoke with SFist in November regarding concerns of arson, and suggested he understands the worry.
“It’s a question that I get asked repeatedly,” said Campos. “Given what’s happening in the neighborhood, given the fact that there is a history of arson in the Mission going back to the 70's where there was actually evidence of arson, I think that we have to do a better job of providing information to the public because this question keeps coming up.”