Alamo Square Fire Engulfs Apartment Buildings In San Francisco (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

12/22/2011 04:36 pm ET | Updated Feb 21, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — As many as 60 people were left homeless Thursday by a San Francisco apartment building fire that took firefighters nearly three hours to control, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said.

The five-alarm blaze engulfed three buildings before 150 firefighters, or about half the department's daytime firefighting force, were able to bring the fire under control around 3 p.m., Hayes-White said.

The blaze sent one firefighter to the hospital with a burn to the neck, and a civilian was treated for mild smoke inhalation, Hayes-White said. A second firefighter, originally reported as hospitalized, was given oxygen at the scene.

"It was a challenging fire to fight, but given the time of day, it was actually helpful because most people were out of their dwellings," the chief said. "Other than two minor injuries we were very fortunate given the magnitude of the fire."

Hayes-White said the fire started in one of the neighborhood's trademark three-story Victorian homes and spread to a nearby apartment building and a single-family home. A total of 32 dwellings were destroyed.

As the fire burned during the afternoon, a pillar of thick smoke rose over the residential neighborhood dotted with century-old Victorian homes. Authorities closed several blocks of streets, causing massive traffic jams in the area.

Firefighters believed they had successfully evacuated everyone from the buildings, with everyone accounted for, Hayes-White said.

The cause of the blaze was not yet known, but arson crews would be in the building during the night trying to determine what sparked the fire.

The fire spread easily due to brisk winds and because the building where the fire started was made of wood and directly attached to other buildings, Hayes-White said.

The Red Cross was caring for residents displaced by the fire.