Christmas was over, and I had fallen
asleep on the couch.
At around 3AM I awoke for some reason. I lay there looking up at the
window, and something just wasn't right. I rubbed my
eyes and the
problem didn't go away: the sky was all wrong, there was a solid
glowing orange mass hanging there above the city.
I went to the window. The
warehouses across the street were glowing, lit by the fires inside.
A minute later, one of the roofs collapsed, and the flames shot into the sky.
I touched the glass: it was
hot. This was about the time that the
first fire truck arrived.
I picked up the camera and shot off about two rolls worth of pictures
before noting that the camera was empty! Arrgh! Much frantic loading
and winding and
snapping later, and the results
are visible at the right. I was bummed that I missed the roofs falling in;
that was an impressive spectacle, for as it
collapsed, the fire would flare up
at the influx of air and fuel.
Yes, that building on the right with the curved roof is, in fact, a
tire warehouse. Yes, tire fires are not good things.
The warehouse in the middle erupted in loud, booming explosions at
one point; apparently there had been
There had been another car parked on the street near the tire warehouse,
and at first it looked like it had made it through unscathed: but it looked
that way because I couldn't see the side of the car that had been facing the
fire. That side of the car had basically melted.
Within an hour, there were a huge number of fire
I counted at least 10, but I couldn't tell what was going on on the
other side of the buildings. It was impressive watching them work,
and trying to guess why they chose to direct water where they did.
They spent a lot of time hosing
down the walls on the right that had not yet collapsed (a battle which
eventually they lost.) And as the front wall of the tire warehouse began to
weaken, they used the hoses to push it over, into the fire. I guess
the theory here was ``better that it fall in, than fall out.''
This fire shut down the freeway, too. Route 101 approaches the Bay Bridge
just a couple blocks from where the fire was burning, and it looked like the
smoke was thick enough that you wouldn't have been able to see through it to
drive, even if they did let you through.
The cloud reached hundreds of feet into the sky, maybe a thousand,
and it was very thick and very greasy and
It took them hours; it was 6 AM before there was any appreciable
reduction in the size of the flames. The fire was still smoldering
the next afternoon, and they periodically sprayed more water on it.
Most of these pictures are multi-second exposures, ranging from 1 to 15
seconds. I tried a lot of different things, because I wasn't sure how they
would come out, it being both: the middle of the night, and a very bright,
light-emitting subject. I tried other
tricks, too, like dodging with my hand so that the fire got a 1 second
exposure while the sky got 8 seconds, and things like that; I was sure that
most of my shots wouldn't come out at all. But, surprisingly, none of this
seemed to be necessary, since it looks like every picture I took came out
Some of these shots have bright worm-like streaks on them: those aren't
scratches, those are airborne
sparks that the long
Apparently it was arson, started in a dumpster behind the warehouses.
See the Chronicle's article,
Eight Fires in S.F. Arson Spree; Department has busiest day of 1997.''