Sunset District

Sunset Home Explosion Results in Death and Significant Damage

By Jonathan Farrell

The 1700 block of 22nd Avenue, between Noriega and Moraga streets, was jolted by a huge blast on the morning of Feb. 9 when a house exploded into a three-alarm fire resulting in one death, three injuries that required hospitalization and damage to 18 homes and several cars.

It took the efforts of more than 100 firefighters and 35 units/apparatus to attend to the blaze, which occurred at 9:22 a.m.

Both the San Francisco fire and police departments reported that the person who was killed in the explosion was a resident of the house. Working jointly in investigations, the SFPD/ SFFD Arson Task Force with the help of the SFPD Narcotics Division determined that a narcotics manufacturing operation in the house was the cause of the explosion.

Smoke from the Outer Sunset was visible for miles, as seen in this photo taken from Golden Gate Heights. Photo by Angie Pettit.

The following day, Feb. 10, SFPD officers/investigators arrested 53-year-old Darron Price who lived at the home. Later news reports revealed that it was his wife, 51-year-old Rita Price, who was killed in the explosion. The two-story house collapsed from the explosion and the blaze destroyed the house.

“It sounded like a barrel bomb. It was pretty crazy,” said Sunset resident Henry Chu. “I go by that house almost every day since I work at Punch King Fitness on Noriega Street.”

Describing the Sunset as typically “a nice middle-class neighborhood,” Chu said the last time something like this happened was more than 20 years ago in 1998 when a house on 19th Avenue exploded knocking it off its foundation at 45-degree angle. It was later discovered that illegal fireworks had been stored in the basement.

Chu mentioned how these types of houses have potential for a home-based business. The fact that a house can be seen more as an investment (with equity) or as a commodity than a single-family home can sometimes lead owners to use a house as a business.

“This was a really nice house,” said Chu. Surmising from later news reports, he noted that because a narcotics trade was being operated there, it might explain why the house was really nice, well-maintained. “It stood out among the rest of the houses on the block.”

Photo courtesy of SFFD.

While later news reports said Price was described as a contractor (who “flipped houses”) and his wife Rita of eight years was a “kitchen designer,” nothing in the formal press releases provided by the SFFD/SFPD gave any such specific details.

Not even the mention of what type of narcotics were involved on the premises of the house were said in initial SFPD/SFFD press releases. The releases did report that Price has been charged with felonies of involuntary manslaughter, manufacturing of narcotics and two counts of child endangerment.

A caretaker for Rita Price was among those hospitalized as a result of the explosion and fire.

It wasn’t immediately clarified as to what illness or condition the caretaker for Rita was hired to care for. Since initial reports, it has been reported that, according to her friends, Rita attended Balboa High School and that she suffered from a stroke in 2014.

On Feb. 15, the SF District Attorney’s Office (SFDA) announced that it is adding four counts of reckless burning and one count of elder abuse to the charges in the case. SF District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said she is determined to “stand with the community and the victims in seeking justice.”

In formal statement, Jenkins said, “We must send a clear message that the manufacture of dangerous drugs will not be tolerated in San Francisco; this activity is not only dangerous for the individuals involved but entire neighborhoods as this case so tragically demonstrates.”

Photo by Barry Hermanson.

The SFDA’s office also said in official statement that investigators recovered suspected butane tanks, ovens and other materials consistent with processing hash oil with volatile solvents. Investigators also tested a jar of suspected hash oil and found it contained acetone and other dangerous and highly flammable solvents.

Prosecutors with the SFDA wanted Price to remain in custody awaiting trial because they feared he would flee if released on bail. And prosecutors feared that Price could become a risk to public safety.

Deputy Public Defender Sierra Villaran maintained that Price was not a risk to the community.

“Mr. Price would never do anything to harm his family,” Villaran said. “He is devastated by the loss of his wife and displacement of his children from their home. He denies these allegations, and once we’re able to sort through all the evidence in court, I believe he will be exonerated.

“The judge did the right thing by releasing him from jail because he does not pose a danger nor is he a flight risk, and we’re relieved that he will be able to be with his family as they grieve and begin to heal from this tragedy,” she said.

If convicted of all charges, Price faces more than 13 years in state prison, according to the SFDA’s office.

Although, charges have been filed, this remains an active investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the San Francisco Police Department tip line at 1-415-575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD. You may remain anonymous.

2 replies »

  1. I’m curious about the connection between the house that exploded and the narcotics manufacturing operation. Did anyone catch the person who was killed in the explosion?


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