Massive fire prompts 'hundreds' of evacuations in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - A major fire burning Tuesday in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood sent an enormous plume of black smoke high into the sky.

One firefighter suffered second-degree burns to the face, Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.

The five-alarm fire that began around 5 p.m. ravaged a high-rise building under construction on the west side of Fourth Street at China Basin led a wall of the structure to collapse about an hour later. As daylight waned, the flames calmed and the smoke turned from black to white. San Francisco police spokesman Sgt. Eric O'Neal said in a statement that all residents on the east side of Fourth Street had been evacuated and that the Red Cross was on the scene.

About 150 firefighters responded to the blaze, and teams were expected to remain there throughout the night.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear.

Fire-suppression systems had not yet been installed in the building, making the battle more difficult, Talmadge said.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White told The San Francisco Chronicle that firefighters had kept the blaze from spreading to nearby structures.

The burning building, owned by BRE Properties, was part of the MB360 development project and was intended to be a residential one with 172 units, the company confirmed in a statement released Tuesday evening.

"We are currently assessing the situation, including the cause of the fire, and we will be consulting with the appropriate authorities," the company said. "We carry comprehensive insurance coverage for events such as this including hard cost replacement, soft costs and loss of revenue."

Residents of Strata at Mission Bay, a building across the street, told the Chronicle that heat from the fire blew out some front windows.

Messages left with BRE Properties and Suffolk Construction on Tuesday evening were not immediately returned.

"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," San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement Tuesday night. "The Fire Department will continue to investigate the cause of the blaze and the City and the Red Cross will work closely with any displaced residents of nearby homes."

It was not immediately clear how many residents had been displaced.

The Mission Bay neighborhood is a onetime industrial area that lies along the San Francisco Bay. It is home to a University of California, San Francisco medical campus and is close to AT&T Park, the San Francisco Giants stadium.

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