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Two people have been arrested and will face arson charges for allegedly starting a four-alarm fire in San Francisco’s Silver Terrace neighborhood early this morning, a police spokesman said. Police plan to release the suspects’ names later today, police spokesman Officer Gordon Shyy said. No other suspects are believed to be outstanding and no one was injured in the fire, Shyy said. The fire was reported at about 3 a.m. on Boutwell Street near Bayshore Boulevard. Firefighters labeled it suspicious after smelling gas upon arrival and finding a gas can nearby, Assistant Fire Chief Tom Siragusa said.
The blaze spread to three other adjacent residences and also knocked down live power lines before being controlled at 4:51 a.m. The owner of the house at 170 Boutwell St. where the fire started could also face litigation after leaving the home vacant for years, said William Strawn, spokesman for the city’s Department of Building Inspection. Marla Racca, who lives nearby on Boutwell Street, said the building had been abandoned by its owner, Jack Noonan, after a previous fire gutted it almost three years ago today, on July 4, 2009. Racca said a group of squatters had moved in, and that she frequently heard “a whole lot of hammering” and other loud noises coming from the home, which had a back gate and staircase leading down to Bayshore Boulevard.
Strawn confirmed that a John J. Noonan is the registered owner of the home but said he has been “non-responsive” and hasn’t communicated with building inspectors. A complaint had been filed in September 2009 about the building being unsecured, with squatters staying on the premises, but it was back in compliance by the following month, Strawn said. However, the home was inspected as recently as May 8 of this year by building inspectors, who said it was vacant and that its owner had failed to comply with a city ordinance requiring the registration of vacant or abandoned buildings, Strawn said.
He said the department will now consider forwarding the case to the city attorney’s office for possible litigation for non-compliance. “It looks like it could be a pretty good candidate,” Strawn said. The official cause of the fire remains under investigation, and there is not yet a dollar estimate for the damage it caused. At least eight adults and two children were displaced and were assisted by the American Red Cross.
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