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UPDATE: San Francisco 3-Alarm High-Rise Fire; Dozens Forced To Flee; 5 Injured

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A three-alarm fire erupted in a San Francisco Financial District residential high-rise early Friday, sending dozens of residents fleeing down fire escapes and leaving at least five suffering from injuries, authorities said.

San Francisco fire officials tweeted that the was fire was contained at around 4:15 a.m. Dozens of residents were nestled in the predawn cold on the streets below the high rise located at 440 Davis Court.

Firefighters responded to alarms from the building at around 1:30 a.m. Arriving crews found frightened residents huddled in the street and smoke and flames pouring out of an apartment on the 11th floor. Smoke was also visible on other adjacent floors.

Among those forced to flee was Margaret Lewis.

"The smoke was like a movie," said Lewis, who lives on the 11th floor. "You couldn't see down the hallway and it smelled like burning plastic."

She said was awoken by the building's fire alarm system.

"A fire alarm went off for my unit and then it stopped," she said. "I was going to go back to bed, but I could hear people going down the fire escape on my side of the building. I got up and when I came out of my apartment unit, smoke was coming down the hallway."

Ron Pripitauo was also forced from his apartment. He was jolted awake by a loud alarm.

"We came down," he said. "We saw smoke coming out of the building and then out of nowhere -- a huge burst of flames. We saw black smoke coming out of the top of the building."

There was no immediate word on those injured in the fire. San Francisco fire officials tweeted that a fire victim suffered burns and several others had to be rescued from their apartments.

Some residents were allowed to return to their apartments once the blaze was extinguished. The fire was contained to two floors, but 23 units were deemed uninhabitable due to the blaze. The American Red Cross has responded to the scene to assist those displaced by the fire.

Firefighters were still trying to determine the cause of the fire. Streets near the building remained blocked early Friday.

This was the second serious fire at the Gateway complex in recent memory. It was October of 2018 when a fire broke out on the 12th floor of a different building.

That fire raised alarms over Gateway's lack of a sprinkler system; a conversation that was renewed Friday.

"Obviously, sprinklers are a good idea," said Gateway resident George Teekell. "I'm not prepared to say, 'Well, the landlord should install them.' I don't know how all that works."

"We did a bunch of research after the 2018 fire," said District 3 Supervisor Aarron Peskin. "And we are preparing legislation for introduction in the new session in January."

Peskin added that there are about 135 mid- and high-rise residential buildings in San Francisco without sprinkler systems. He and the fire marshal have been working towards a plan to get all of them retrofitted.

"Given the second fire, we are going to push through and get this thing passed," said Peskin.

Wilson Walker contributed to this story.

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