161701875, WF, WORKING FIRE, 4TH ALARM, 3312 MISSION ST, SF, pic.twitter.com/OGpSEDeyOk— SF Firefighters 798 (@SFFFLocal798) June 18, 2016
After a devastating fire at Mission and 29th Streets forced out 58 people this month, CBS 5 puts the number of Missionites displaced by such disasters at 200. While officials link the string of fires in the Mission District to crowded housing and old buildings, Supervisor Campos has darker suspicions about the series of disasters. On Tuesday, he gave utterance to those at a Board of Supervisor's Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee meeting.
"To me, this fire is just too much," Campos tells the station. “For the community, we have had enough.” Campos also turned to the pages of the Examiner recently to express his theory:
We are at a point in this crisis where reasonable people now believe that arson is playing a part in the rash of fires that are destroying the homes of Mission and Bernal residents. Reasonable people see that fires in low-income buildings almost always result in large profits for building owners and landlords and are disturbed and afraid the uptick in fires is more then just a coincidence... As the elected representative of these neighborhoods, there is nothing I want more then to assure my constituents that arson is not a factor in these fires. Unfortunately, at this point, I can not say this with certainty.
In contrast to those statements, CBS 5 quotes officials like Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, who points instead to other factors, some related to the forces of gentrification in the sense that rising prices can lead to overcrowding and also building deterioration. But these causes aren't, as Campos suggests, direct or malicious agents.
“We are seeing six or seven people in these units, closets being used for little nurseries,” Hayes-White explains. “These fires we’re seeing are based on electronic circuit issues and the overcrowding.” The official points to a similar predicaments in Chinatown.
Of 42 working fires in the Mission since 2014, so far 32 have been deemed accidental and none has been called incendiary, the term used to describe arson. Eight are outstanding as "undetermined" while two are still being investigated. In Bernal Heights, of nine working fires one was deemed incendiary, to are still being investigated, and two are undetermined.
The Mission/Bernal fire of June 18 started not in a residential building, as originally suspected, but below one in a Cole Hardware store, itself consumed by the fire. Meanwhile, Mission Local delves into the devastation wrought by that event, gathering stories from those displaced. Everyone put out by the fire was initially moved to a Salvation Army shelter and is being provided hotel rooms until July 5. From there, those 58 people will move to temporary housing.
Most of those displaced lived in the Graywood Hotel, and while that structure is rebuilt, they'll be moved to another SRO and the city will pay the difference between their old and new rents. “Our policy is to place people in like housing,” Human Services Agency disaster response manager Ben Aymes tells Mission Local. “So if you were in an SRO, we’re gonna find an SRO, and if you were in a two-bedroom, you’re gonna be in a two-bedroom.”
Last, a small aside: Last night, Mission beer bar Zeitgeist held a modest fundraiser for the businesses displaced by the fire. As Campos put it in his Examiner piece, "our community also lost six successful locally owned businesses that significantly added to the culture of the corridor."