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San Francisco Fire Department tackle large fire on Union Street

On 03-17-2018, at 1924 hours, the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) responded to a dispatched call of a reported fire at 659 Union Street. Engine 28 arrived on scene at 1925 hours (refer to NFPA 1710 for response time guidelines) and noted heavy smoke from the floors above this address. The crew of Engine 28 were directed to an entrance to the units and floors above 659 Union street, which was located at 1656 Powell street. This door was locked and required forcible entry to gain access.

Simultaneously, Firefighters and Police Officers were evacuating businesses associated with the fire building, while first due engines and trucks were securing water supplies for interior hose lines, preparing for ventilation operations, leading hose lines into 575 Columbus for exposure protection, and laddering the building for anticipated fire-rescue operations.

At 1931 hours, Engine 28 had gained access to the building and crews led hose lines, including two large lines, to the second and third floors. This was accomplished while being confronted by high heat temperatures, fire, and little to no visibility.

Simultaneously, crews were progressing through the building against the immense heat, searching for occupants (No occupants were located).

Confronted with extreme heat, zero visibility, and a large volume of fire which was now above and below our firefighters, and with the knowledge that the search for occupants was in progress, interior crews were able to start combat the body of the fire.

At 1953 hours, the Incident Commander was made aware that the fire building had been searched, and no occupants were located which reduced life safety concern. Crews with hose lines were established in 575 Columbus which was the exposure next to the 1656 Powell Street, enhancing the ability to protect this building from the fire. Based on the totality of circumstances the Department was confronted with, such as heavy fire load, and no occupants, the Incident Commander made the decision to fight this fire defensively (from the exterior).

The members of the public may have heard the horns sounding, which notifies our interior attack crews to vacate the building. Water cannot be applied into the building with Firefighters inside, or they will succumb to injury or death from the movement of fire and heat produced by this activity.

Crews set up for a defensible operation outside, which is when the public would have seen large lines and ladder truck lines being deployed. This operation proved successful. Although this fire remains under investigation, preliminary findings are that this fire was accidental in nature.


1656 Powell houses 28 units and 6 business, including the following Union Street addresses: 653,655,659,663,673; and 585 Columbus. Most of the units inside 1656 Powell also hold their own street address.

575 Columbus is a 30-unit residential building with 1 commercial business below. The building sustained water damage, and damage consistent with firefighting operations to ensure its protection.


Dispatch time: 1924 hours

On scene time: 1925 hours

From 1925-1931 hours, search and rescue, evacuations, forcible entry, location of fire, hose lead deployment, roof ventilation operations, and exposure protection operations.

1931 Hours: Charged water lines for interior fire attack and “water lines” to provide protection for the crews as they progressed to the origin of the interior fire by E28

2nd Alarm 1931 Hours

1933 Radio confirmation of water on the fire by Battalion 4

1953 hours Defensive operations ordered

3rd Alarm 1953 hours

4th Alarm 2004 hours

Contained 2118 hours

Under Control 115 am 03-18-2018

Over 40 Fire units on scene

Over 130 firefighters on scene

Red cross called for 8 displaced who were served by a temporary evacuation center at 1450 Powell and later given aid by the American red Cross, Salvation Army, and City Services.

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