It was a bad combination: strong winds and a fire on the rooftop of a seven story building in the Tenderloin. The smoke was coming from "The Senator," an apartment building at Ellis and Leavenworth. It's home to more than 100 formerly homeless people. Janice Knight lives right below where the fire started.
"All of a sudden I looked out the window and all of a sudden the sun disappeared and I saw black smoke. Guys running around saying the fire is right over my head," said Knight.
The fire department says a charcoal barbecue on the roof toppled over and set a wooden deck on fire. That's about as far as the flames spread. Some residents evacuated. Others stayed put. They say it's not unusual to hear fire alarms going off, but this was for real.
"Actually somebody just ran through the building hollering that their roof was on fire," said Bobby Haye, an apartment resident.
A bystander on the street helped the first firefighter to get a hose hooked up.
"So he drags the supply line down to the corner hydrant, puts the spanner on and tells some citizen, 'When I signal you, turn it on,' and he did. And it really helped," said San Francisco Asst. Fire Chief Art Kenney.
The Senator hotel dates back to 1924. Clark Gable and other movie stars would stay there when they came to San Francisco.
There is smoke and water damage to parts of the top floor. Two people were moved to other units until repairs can be made.