Residence hotel blaze leaves 150 homeless in San Francisco FWD

Tom Boland (
Sun, 14 Feb 1999 00:26:00 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  San Francisco Examiner - Feb. 13, 1999


     Cause unknown, but officials don't think it was arson

     Zachary Coile of the Examiner staff
     Gregory Lewis of The Examiner staff contributed to this report.

       At the precise moment that Russ Holman was playing guitar on the
steps of City Hall at a demonstration against The City's recent crackdown
on the homeless, he was becoming homeless.

       It was 11:30 a.m. Friday, and a dozen blocks away, at 909 Geary St.,
125 firefighters were battling a smoky, four-alarm blaze at the Hotel

       Holman was one of more than 150 residents of the Tenderloin hotel
who were made homeless - at least temporarily - by the fire.

       Homeless activists took pity on Holman. A hat was passed at the
protest, raising about $70 for the guitar player.

       Other residents displaced by the fire were seeking shelter with
friends this weekend. The Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at the
Hamilton Recreation Center at Geary and Steiner streets.

       "Obviously it's very shocking for all of them to lose their homes,
and it's still very uncertain what's going to happen to them," said Heather
Aiello, Red Cross spokeswoman.

       The fire severely damaged the top floor and the attic of the
six-story, 140-unit building. Fire investigators believe the blaze began in
a light well, but had not yet identified a cause Friday night.

       One firefighter suffered minor neck burns and was treated at the
scene. A police officer also was treated at the scene for a minor facial

       "It does not look suspicious," said Lt. Ed Campbell, spokesman for
the Fire Department. "People put all kinds of things in the light well.
They throw trash there. The trash and debris could have been ignited. We're
trying to determine how that happened."


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