Burn Baby, Burn: Fire in North Beach


A beautiful, cleansing 4 alarm fire erupted in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. “It was raining burnt ashes,” one witness said.

I love that. It reminds me of Pompeii. Of destruction and rebirth. Of great photogenic possibilities. The images of the fire are testimonies to the beatific nature of our callous, abusive, drunken parent: Stepmother Nature.

I say Stepmother, because she has adopted us. We owe her nothing. We are her adopted bastard children, and we will treat each other in a manner fitting the relationship: adversarial.

Back to the fire.

The building on 659 Union Street produced 20-foot flames. The fire was officially declared a 4-alarm fire at 8 pm. 140 firefighters fought arrogantly and audaciously to contain the fire, an indefensible act that they achieved at 9:30 pm.

They should’ve let it burn.

The lower level of the building housed Colt Liqours and Rogue Ales Public House. The upper level contained 27 unfortunately vacant apartment units.

A total of five business were either destroyed or damaged in the fire. A good start.

But they should’ve let it all burn.

This is the second time in four years that this building has caught fire. And while the universe is usually an ineffably mysterious place, sometimes its message is loud and unequivocal: You are not welcome here.

We would also do well to think about events like these not only in terms of their majestic beauty and calculated efficacy, but in strictly utilitarian terms.

This city needs precisely what fire traditionally symbolizes: a rebirth. With more fires, more earthquakes, more acts of destruction, our useless bitch of a Stepmother could convince those that do not belong here to leave.

Think about it: those without renters insurance or insurance of any kind would be forced to abandon their hopes and dreams of upward mobility, a futile concept to begin with. The needs and wants and desires of the many would be serviced and fulfilled by the sacrifice of the few.

Firefighters have faced criticism for their handling of the situation. Neighborhood supervisor Aaron Peskin, in his myopic ignorance, whined that the firefighters took too long in their response. There are many possible explanations for their handling of the blaze. Perhaps they, like most of those with the discriminating taste it takes to appreciate beauty of the highest order, simply wished to enjoy the wonder unfolding before them.

I like to think so.

Whatever their reason, we should not chastise these men and women. On the contrary, I applaud their apparent sluggishness.

In fact, the next time a 4-alarm blaze erupts in some such neighborhood, we should all lock hands and surround the building, like those puerile individuals who wish to save a redwood. We should look the firefighters in the eye and calmly but firmly state what Stepmother Nature is so clearly saying to us:

You are not welcome here.

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