SF Alamo Square dog walker’s home burns weeks after receiving racist threats

SAN FRANCISCOThe home of a native San Francisco dog walker burned in the scenic Alamo Square neighborhood on Tuesday, just weeks after racist threats were directed at his family.

The San Francisco Fire Department says seven adults and three dogs are now displaced after fire tore through the residence this morning.

The 900 block of Grove Street remained closed late Tuesday afternoon as firefighters cleaned up the contained one-alarm fire.

Fire officials said the blaze is under investigation. As many as 40 firefighters responded to the incident that started at 11:31 am

The address is that of the family of well-liked dog-walker Terry Williams, who was born and raised in the neighborhood. The family has owned the property since 1971.

SF Fire Dept. responds to a residence on fire in Alamo Square. May 21, 2024.

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SF Fire Dept. responds to a residence on fire in Alamo Square. May 21, 2024.

Last month, I received a racist package that contained a black doll with a noose wrapped around its neck. A photo of the doll was shown on a Gofundme started for the family to help keep them safe. The doll includes Terry’s name, his photo of him, and other racial slurs. A second racist package was received earlier this month with similar contents. The packages were thrown over the front gate of the home, according to the family.

SFPD are investigating the racist deliveries as hate crimes. Williams said he’s suspicious about whether the fire was arson and related to the racist incidents.

“I don’t know. I pray to god it’s not,” he said.

Williams parents were rescued by firefighters from the upper floors of the three-story residence. His mother was trapped on the third floor. They were both treated at the scene and taken to local hospitals. Terry’s father, 81-year-old Luddie Williams, has since been released from the hospital. His mother, 76-year-old Carolyn Williams, is expected to be released soon.

“I’m glad me and my wife are safe. The dogs too, but that’s secondary,” said Luddie. He said he and his wife smelled smoke and he went to see where it was coming from. That’s when he saw the flames. He said he started to become nauseated.

Beloved Alamo Square dog walker Terry Williams during a May 11 rally in support of him and his family.

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Beloved Alamo Square dog walker Terry Williams during a May 11 rally in support of him and his family.

The home’s second and third floors were mostly impacted by the fire. The department said high heat and low visibility were factors for the residents on those floors.

“I got to the garage door, I couldn’t go no further,” Luddie said. “Smoke was everywhere.”

Terry, who lives with his parents, was hot home when the fire broke out. He said he rushed home to find the house engulfed in flames.

“My mom’s disabled. She can’t move around. All I can think about was this is one of my worst nightmares to have my parents burn up in the house,” Terry said.

Terry was at City Hall when the fire broke out. He was talking to the mayor’s office about the racist incidents.

“He’s an avid community person. He works hard. He walks people’s dogs,” said James Caldwell with the Mayor’s Office of Violence Prevention and Public Safety. “For someone to have a heart like that to be treated the way he’s been treated and a native of San Francisco, it’s not OK.”

District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, who represents the area, issued a statement about the fire that burned at the “Williams family” home.

“This comes after weeks of racial terror and threats directed at this family,” Preston’s statement read. He thanked first responders for rescuing the seniors and said the quick response saved lives.

Crews were able to respond to the first 911 call in just over a minute.

“We are working with the Mayor’s Office to find temporary housing and ensure continued support for the family,” the statement continued.

The family home is severely damaged and has been red-tagged by the city. The family plans to rebuild.

“One of the victims didn’t have minutes left before this could have been tragically different,” SF Fire Capt. Jonathan Baxter said.

A rally was held in support of the Williams family on the morning of May 11 at the Painted Ladies, a San Francisco tourist destination. Preston attended that rally in support of the family.

Beloved Alamo Square dog walker Terry Williams during a May 11 rally in support of him and his family.

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