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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

As Structure Fires Drop Citywide, Mission District Blazes Steadily

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2016 at 12:52 PM

click to enlarge Last year's fatal fire at 22nd and Mission Streets. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SF EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/SF Examiner
  • Last year's fatal fire at 22nd and Mission Streets.
The San Francisco Fire Department has discovered a dismaying trend: While fires in San Francisco have been on a gradual decline in the previous decade, the Mission District — home of some of the most in-demand real estate in the United States — hasn’t followed suit.

Citywide, annual conflagrations dropped from 317 in 2005 to a 10-year low of 186 in 2015, with some years showing fluctuations. The worst year was 2007, which saw 350 blazes.

But it’s a different story in the Mission, which has seen annual counts jump sporadically between a low of 10 fires and a high of 29 during the same period, in defiance of the city's overall downward trend — and meaning that a greater number of the city's total fires are in the Mission than ever before.

What's behind this steady rate of fires in the Mission? Nobody's quite sure. 

In 2015, there had been 19 fires in the Mission as of Christmas Eve, including the fatal fire in January at 22nd and Mission that also left almost 60 people homeless.

That means that last year, 10.2 percent of citywide fires were in that neighborhood — constituting its largest share during the time period the fire department researched, since the citywide rate has been simultaneously dropping.

Year                                     Total Fires               Fires in Mission                 Mission % of Total
2005 317 10 3.15%
2006 333 29 8.71%
2007 350 14 4%
2008 310 24 7.74%
2009 236 15 6.36%
2010 223 16 7.17%
2011 245 21 8.57%
2012 230 10 4.35%
2013 244 18 7.38%
2014 210 15 7.14%
2015 186 19 10.22%
Source: San Francisco Fire Department

Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission, said he was surprised to hear about this phenomenon.

“We have been trying to get as much information as possible from the Fire Department and this is the first we hear about this,” he said.

Fire Department Deputy Chief Daniel De Cossio, San Francisco’s current fire marshal, said his staff discovered the Mission District’s persistently high fire rate in December, in the process of researching for a report intended to allay fears that arson was behind a recent spate of fires, some of which were fatal. After examining city data since 2012, the report’s authors determined that only one Mission District fire had been intentionally set.
click to enlarge apotwfire.jpg

Regardless of whether the fires were caused by deviants or faulty electrical wiring, it’s small comfort to the multitude of residents who have been displaced, injured or killed.

De Cossio said he can’t yet explain why the Mission is such an outlier, though he hopes his staff will uncover answers by the end of January.
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Noah Arroyo

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