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Huge Fire Burns San Francisco Building Under Construction Near AT&T Park

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Nearly 150 firefighters tackled a five-alarm blaze that burned at a building under construction in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood Tuesday evening.

BRE Properties, which focuses on development, acquisition and management of apartment communities in California and Seattle, said the fire occurred at Block 5 of its MB360 development project, located on the west side of Fourth Street between China Basin and Mission Rock streets near AT&T Park.

PHOTOS: San Francisco Mission Bay Fire

The fire, which was reported at 4:56 p.m., prompted the evacuation of nearby buildings, including the Strata at Mission Bay apartments.

A woman who lives in an apartment directly facing the building on fire told KCBS her window cracked and her room started to fill with smoke. She grabbed her dog and ran out.

The American Red Cross responded to the scene to assist residents displaced by the fire.

According to San Francisco police Sgt. Eric O'Neal, the entire east side of Fourth Street between Mission Rock and China Basin streets was evacuated.

Firefighters aggressively attacked the flames, keeping the blaze from spreading to other buildings, though the fire burned for several hours, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said.

One firefighter was taken to a hospital after suffering a minor burn, according to a dispatcher. No other injuries were reported.

Hayes-White told reporters at the scene that the fire was contained to the building of origin, and that firefighters were performing an aggressive attack on the building on fire.

The chief said she's glad that firefighters have been able to prevent the flames from spreading to nearby buildings.

"This is a great save right here," she said.

Embers from the fire spread to a building at the UCSF Mission Bay campus, but did not cause major damage.

According to Hayes-White, the building's sprinkler system was not yet installed.

Looking to prevent the fire from spreading, Hayes-White said, "We applied water curtains to cool the buildings close by."

"We are in a defensive mode," the chief said. She called the approach to fighting the fire as "surround and drown."

Hayes-White said the possibility for collapse is very likely and that firefighters have set up a perimeter around the expected collapse zone.

The chief said Tuesday night that firefighters were getting the upper hand, but the fire was not yet contained. "We'll be here another few hours at least," Hayes-White said.

PG&E crews responded to the fire as well and determined that there were no gas lines running through the burning building.

Tuesday's fire drew comparisons to a massive blaze in 2002 that damaged the Santana Row complex in San Jose, which was under construction at the time. It was the largest structure fire in San Jose's history.

Buildings under construction like this are, "…like a pile of kindling waiting to go up," said retired San Jose Fire Captain Vincent Sciortino, who fought the Santana Row blaze.

Black smoke from the fire was billowing above the area and was widely seen from locations throughout San Francisco and around the Bay Area.

Read More:
Destroyed Apartment Units Would Have Been Sold For $630,000
Embers From Fire Spreads To Roof At UCSF
Mission Bay Fire Brings Back Memories Of Santana Row Blaze
How Firefighters Battled A Fully Engulfed Six-Story Building Fire

In a statement from BRE Properties, the company said the structure that burned contains 172 units under construction.

The company's Block 11 site, which is also part of the MB360 development and contains 188 units under construction, was not affected by the fire.

"We are currently assessing the situation, including the cause of the fire, and we will be consulting with the appropriate authorities," the company said in the statement.

BRE Properties said the company has comprehensive insurance coverage for events such as the fire, and believe any losses to the company caused by the fire will be covered by insurance.

According to published reports, the building was slated to become condominiums with an expected sale price of $630,000.

A construction worker named Jim, who did not give his last name, told KPIX 5 that workers left the building about 2 hours before the fire started.

The worker said the lower two floors of the 172-unit building were made of concrete, while the upper floors were made of wood.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement Tuesday night he's grateful to the firefighters who battled the Mission Bay blaze and that no one suffered serious injuries.

"Thanks to the leadership and determined action of our Fire Department, the very real potential of severe damage to other homes, businesses, and structures in the neighborhood was avoided," Lee said in the statement.

Lee also encouraged property owners and landlords to help those displaced in finding temporary housing if needed.

The Salvation Army has also reached out Tuesday night to help those affected by the fire.

A disaster services canteen, which includes a mobile kitchen about the size of a parcel delivery truck, has been stationed near AT&T Park to serve an estimated 100 firefighters, police officers and other volunteers working to extinguish the fire.

A second Salvation Army canteen has been placed at Pier 54 to serve another 20 volunteers, as well as about 30 residents who remained evacuated Tuesday night from nearby buildings.

The cause of the fire is not known.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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