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Posted March 14, 2014 EST

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Five Alarm Fire In San Francisco
United States (California) - A fire that barreled through an apartment building construction site sending up black smoke that could be seen for miles around the San Francisco Bay smoldered into Wednesday morning as authorities worked determine what sparked the destructive blaze.

The exact cause of the fire — one of the city's largest in recent years — was under investigation, but crews were welding at the site of the blaze, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said. The five-alarm fire appears to have started above ground, according to Lee.

Crews prevented flames from spreading to nearby buildings.

The fast-moving blaze, which sent an enormous plume of black smoke into the sky, began around 5 p.m. Tuesday in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood, a onetime industrial area that lies along the San Francisco Bay and is home to a University of California, San Francisco campus. Crews remained at the scene on Wednesday morning putting out hotspots.

Nearby buildings were evacuated as more than 150 firefighters battled the flames, using about 90 firetrucks, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Residents of Strata at Mission Bay, a building across the street, told the paper that heat from the fire blew out some front windows.

Fire Capt. Matthew McNaughton said that the roof of a UCSF research building, a block away from the construction site, briefly caught fire.

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White told the Chronicle that that the fire was the city's largest in several years.

The burning building was part of a residential development project with 172 units, according to BRE Properties, the building's owner. Fire-suppression systems had not yet been installed in the building, making the battle more difficult, fire officials said.

One of the six-story structure's walls collapsed about an hour after the fire began, and the rest of the building was not expected to remain standing, officials said.

Residents of an evacuated apartment building across from the site of the fire won't immediately be able to return home.

San Francisco Fire Deputy Chief of Operations Mark Gonzales said Wednesday exterior sprinklers on the building that went off have to be replaced and the fire protection system restored before residents will be allowed back in.

Gonzales said a firefighter suffered first and second-degree burns to his hands and face, but was treated and released Tuesday night.

The site is several blocks from AT&T Park, the stadium where the San Francisco Giants play.

Written by Associated Press


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