San Francisco Battles 5-Alarm Fire
Huge effort saves nearby buildings
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2014 1:40 AM CDT
Smoke rises from a fire burning in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

(Newser) – Hundreds of nearby residents were evacuated from their homes last night as half of San Francisco's firefighters battled the city's biggest blaze in years. Some 90 fire trucks were called to the scene after a high-rise apartment building still under construction caught fire around 5pm yesterday, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. As the fire spread, the smoke "was like a huge mushroom cloud. It was as high as a plane," a witness says. "It looked like somebody blew a nuclear weapon." Mayor Ed Lee hailed the "leadership and determined action" of firefighters after they managed to stop the blaze from spreading to nearby buildings.

Firefighters are working through the night to contain the fire and "we have a center core that looks like a volcano," a fire captain says. The building, part of a new 360-unit apartment complex, has partially collapsed and will probably be a total loss. One firefighter suffered burns to his hands and face, reports the Los Angeles Times. He was on the first ladder truck to arrive and "got a little burned up there but didn't cop to it until four or five hours later," the department's deputy chief of operations says. No cause has been identified but arson investigators are on the scene.