San Francisco Skyline from Diamond Heights

Fire TipsImage of fire

Tragically, the last three San Francisco firefighters killed on the fireline were from our station, Engine 26, and died to save the lives and property of our neighbors. The circumstances of their deaths remind us of some unusual architectural traits of Diamond Heights that can be safety issues for both residents and emergency responders.

In 2011, two firefighters entered the ground floor of a home with two stories visible from the street; but the house was on a hillside and had two other stories below street level. The fire was on a lower level and the crew had to enter and work above it—a risky operation because heat rises. Their entry allowed fresh oxygen into the house and may have caused a flashover, a sudden superheating of the entire interior atmosphere, which fatally injured both men. In 1995, a firefighter was trapped in a burning home when an electric garage door closed and left him no alternate exit.

Keeping in mind some of the peculiarities of Diamond Heights homes, we offer some safety tips to address these and other fire situations.



Little can be done to alter a hillside home to remedy the conditions that contributed to the 2011 firefighter deaths. Lower stories built into a hillside are confined spaces, where entry and egress are possible only from above and firefighting or rescue is difficult. As we saw in the Berkeley Way tragedy, a fire produces heat, smoke, and toxic vapors that can build up enormous pressure and then ignite explosively when fresh oxygen enters the building.




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