By Thomas K. Pendergast
The cause of a fire that shut down five businesses and displaced residents at the intersection of Geary Boulevard and 18th Avenue was unintentional, according to an incident report from the San Francisco Fire Department.
The first alarm came in at 5 a.m. on Nov. 4, the report says, and the fire caused an estimated $250,000 in property damage and another $50,000 in damage to the contents inside. There were no injuries or fatalities.
The fire shut down the Geary Convenience Store, Abbas Fard Property Management, Quality Shoe Repair, Rick’s Barber Shop and The Bagel Bakery Café.
The report indicates an electrical wiring failure within the wall space between two of the businesses that sent sparks into sawn wood or lumber, which then ignited into flames. The cause of the electrical failure remains undetermined. The report also states there was no “human factor” involved in lighting the fire.
The report also notes that a smoke detector in the building failed to operate.
San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) has a Small Business Disaster Relief Fund to help out the business owners, but getting everyone involved has been a little like herding cats.
The owner of Quality Shoe Repair, Michael Ryvkin, for example, said he had not heard from anyone with the City and had no idea the fund existed until a reporter asked him about it. His shop was not directly damaged by the fire; however, there are now gaping holes in his bathroom ceiling, hallway ceiling and the back of his shop that firefighters tore out while trying to get access between the walls to fight the fire.
Also, stepping into the building the strong odor of smoke still lingering in the air was noticeable almost 20 days after the fire.
Ryvkin has been operating his business at this location since May, 2012.
“I cannot stay. I don’t know for sure but the insurance that represents the landlord and the landlord put a deadlock on our door and they request that we move everything as soon as possible,” he said. “I try to find some vacant place but I cannot afford it and cannot find anything. And now I package everything and try to sell something. I put some advertising on Craig’s List and some people call but nothing for sure. And I don’t know what to do.”
At this point he has access to his shop but the landlord has to let him in, and in this damaged condition he cannot do any shoe repairing there.
A spokesperson for the OEWD, Gloria Chan, and Project Manager Kamilah Latimore emailed a response to questions about distributing the Small Business Disaster Relief Fund:
“The day of the fire, our team visited to connect with the individual businesses who were impacted to let them know of the disaster fund, provide one-on-one assistance with the application and the application itself, and provide direct contact information for a follow-up,” the statement explained.
“Since the fire, we have followed up through repeated phone calls and in-person visits to check in and we have not been able to get a hold of the Geary Convenience Store, the Quality Shoe Repair and Abbas Fard Property Management Company. We have been able to connect with Rick’s Barber Shop and awaiting for them to fill out their application. As of this date, the Bagel Bakery Café has applied for and will be receiving $5,000 to support the business as they transition.
“A lot of times, immediately after such a disaster, small businesses are overwhelmed with information and the various things they need to do and follow-up on. It’s not uncommon for a small business who may have interacted with us to not remember who we are …. We will continue to reach out to the small businesses that we were not able to get hold of as the fund is still very much available to them,” according to OEWD.
Applications are available online at: https://oewd.org/disaster-relief.