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Mission Street Fire Tragedy Sadly Not New for Young Couple

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For next time, we’ll put together a backpack with important documents

Jose Hernandez and his fiancé Cristel Gutierrez, found spending the night at the American Red Cross shelter at the Salvation Army after a fire roared through their Mission District apartment eerily familiar.

Like his father before him, Jose is trying to build a life in the Mission District.  And, like his father before him, he has found himself at a Red Cross shelter trying to figure out his next steps.  

His father also was sent to a shelter, after a January 2015 fire along Mission Street at 22nd Street left dozens of tenants homeless. The same thing happened to Jose after a June 19 fire ravaged different eight buildings on Mission, near 30th Street, including the one where Jose,24, and Cristel, 21, lived.

To top it off, Jose was dressed in the same clothing when the fire broke out at his home as he wore the day the blaze wiped out his father’s apartment: blue t-shirt, black track pants, and gray sneakers

“It’s sad and overwhelming to be in this situation again,” said Jose, as Cristel nodded in agreement. “You don’t think it will happen to you, not twice! I’m thankful that we can get information here [at the Red Cross shelter],” said Jose.

Cristel, who will soon begin her senior year at San Francisco State University studying to become a nurse, grabbed an envelope containing key documents. She didn’t reach for more – such as her textbooks or computer – because she “didn’t know it was for real” when the building’s alarms sounded. 

“Thankfully, I had that envelope with some important documents, and Jose was at work with his ID on him,” Cristel said.

“Just in case, for next time, we’ll put together a backpack with important documents and other things,” she said. 

Red Cross volunteers gave Jose and Cristel tips and suggestions for creating a “go-kit” in case of a future emergency.  One recommendation: scan critical documents such as certificates and identification as well as sentimental items such as photographs, then save them on a compact USB key with a lot more storage space than an envelope, even a big one. 

Learn more about how to prepare for emergencies, including how to create an escape plan in case of a fire, by visiting