Firefighters delayed by wrong address in deadly Sunset District fire
When a fateful fire broke out at 1986 18th Ave. on Sept. 27, valuable minutes were lost because the person who reported the fire gave a wrong address, sending firefighters to the wrong location.
The first call came in to San Francisco Fire Department dispatch at 1:31 a.m., reporting a fire at 18th Avenue and Pacheco Street. But the first fire engine responding to the call went to the 1900 block of Pacheco Street, about five blocks away from the actual fire. The firefighters at Station 40, on 18th Avenue and Rivera Street, two blocks from the fire, went to the wrong address. A second responding engine company also went to the wrong address.
The person who initially called 911 called again at 1:38 a.m. to report that they had given a wrong address. A third engine responding to the scene was given the correct address en route and was the first to arrive at the scene of the actual fire several minutes later.
After arriving on the scene, firefighters couldn’t enter the locked house and had to use saws to cut a hole in the metal security gate at the front door. They also went behind the building to try to access the house from the back yard.
The fire claimed the lives of three residents: Raymond Tse, 33, who was sleeping in the garage when the fire broke out; Tse’s 1-year-old daughter, Chloe; and Tse’s 61-year-old father-in-law, Kin Fat Tse. Firefighters discovered the elder Tse and Chloe overcome from smoke inhalation. Tse was alive when firefighters found him, but he died at the hospital a couple of days later.
Firefighters did not put out the fire until about 2:01 a.m., a half hour after the fire was initially reported. Inside the charred home firefighters discovered the girl and her grandfather in a third-floor bathroom, apparently trying to escape before they were overcome by smoke.
Tse reportedly was sleeping in the garage because he was ill and did not want to make anyone else in his family sick.
Tse’s wife, Chloe’s mother, escaped through a back door was able to make her way onto Pacheco Street. She was treated for minor smoke inhalation.
The fire, which broke out in the garage, has been deemed “accidental,” either caused by an electrical failure or smoking materials, according to Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge.
The homeowner’s insurance company will conduct any further research into the cause of the blaze, Talmadge said.
The fire caused about $225,000 in property damage and destroyed a large part of the house’s contents. An informal memorial has been set up in front of the house, with people dropping off flowers and other mementos of the family that lived there.
Paul Kozakiewicz is the editor of the Sunset Beacon newspaper.
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