No Smoke Detectors in Mission District Apartment Where Fire Killed Two

Fire investigators' photo of the interior of apartment at 3044 24th St., scene of a blaze that killed two people and injured three  on March 11, 2015.

Fire investigators' photo of the interior of apartment at 3044 24th St., scene of a blaze that killed two people and injured three on March 11, 2015. (San Francisco Fire Department)

A San Francisco Fire Department investigation of a blaze that killed two members of a Mission District family last March has found their three-bedroom apartment lacked smoke detectors.

Investigators’ report on the incident (embedded below) was released Friday and recounts how firefighters rescued all five members of a family living in a second-floor unit above a liquor store at 24th Street and Treat Avenue.

The family’s father, Mohamed Shaibi, 38, and his 13-year-old daughter, Amal, later died of smoke inhalation. Shaibi’s wife and two sons were hospitalized but survived.

One of the couple’s children, identified only as “Witness 7” in the report, told investigators he was asleep on the bottom bunk in a bedroom he shared with his younger siblings. When he awoke, he said, he could see smoke and hear his parents shouting that there was a fire and warning the children, “Do not come out this way!”

As the bedroom filled with smoke, the witness said, he handed one of his younger siblings — apparently a 6-year-old boy — to a firefighter on a ladder at one of the bedroom’s windows. In the meantime, though, his other sibling — apparently Amal — had vanished.

“… He feared [Amal] ran out the door to the hallway,” the report says. [Witness 7] said he searched for [Amal], but smoke and heat condition worsened in the room and he was extricated down the ladder by firefighters.”

Firefighters later found Amal Shaibi unconscious near the top of the apartment’s entrance stairway.

Fire investigators found the accidental fire started in the apartment’s living room, adjacent to an entertainment center and television stand.

Firefighters responding to blaze that killed two members of a family living in a second-floor apartment at 24th Street and Treat Avenue in San Francisco's Mission District.
Firefighters responding to blaze that killed two members of a family living in a second-floor apartment at 24th Street and Treat Avenue in San Francisco’s Mission District. (Lindsey Hoshaw/KQED)

“In the area we located the burned and fire damaged remains of stranded copper wiring and fire damaged electrical cordage,” investigator Robert Mateik wrote. “We located the remains of a melted and fire-involved electrical component fused to carpet material.”

The report says the blaze was “mostly likely caused by an unspecified electrical fault or failure involving electronic components or a power strip.”

When firefighters arrived at the building, they also found two people trapped inside a liquor store on the first floor. The entrance to the store was padlocked and firefighters had to cut off the locks to free the pair, who had apparently been sleeping in the store.

The blaze was one of several large fires last year that prompted Supervisors David Campos and Jane Kim to push for stronger protections for tenants of older apartment buildings.

In November, a task force created on the heels of those fires called for stricter fire alarm standards.

California law requires smoke detectors in all rental units and makes landlords responsible for ensuring that they’re in working order.


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Ted Goldberg

Ted Goldberg is the morning editor for KQED News. His beat areas include San Francisco politics, the city's fire department and the Bay Area's refineries.

Prior to joining KQED in 2014, Ted worked at CBS News and WCBS AM in New York and Bay City News and KCBS Radio in San Francisco. He graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1998.

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Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

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