First noticed it walking back from Union Street and Leavenworth- we were on top of the hill, it was shocking and stopped us in our tracks. Then a crowd gathered, we all phoned around trying to figure out what was happening. It was around 10PM then, and the fire looked tall and light red, in the south and center of the island. It looked like a volcano crater, across the top in a line- which someone in our crowd said looked like a “lava line.”
A small crowd gathered and we all were chatting- with of course the usual drunk person screaming “It’s not OK! It’s not OK!” Later on, another person in our group yelled, “It’s armageddon!” not to sound too weird, a lot of us were just silently watching it, or muttering to ourselves little nuggets of info we’d picked up somewhere.
The weird thing about being up on Russian Hill was that we smelled the smoke really keenly, and ash even fell on my phone. We also didn’t see any emergency vehicles – just one after a half hour- on the access road on the South side. Not to say there weren’t any, we just didn’t see it form oru vantage. Also, only 1 helicopter before I left.
Later, walked out to (as far as I could get on) Aquatic Pier and it seemed pretty under control. Not really true though- as news showed later. Small groups were gathered on the steps at the cove, or out near the fenced off area near the MacDonnell road.
Just checked tv and it looks like the HD camera on the roof of the ABC news building, a 1/2 mile East showed a lot more damage. Lots of drunk sailors & partiers out- but also people with telephotos, on bikes, trying to capture the island on fire.”
More pictures here, at SFist from the souther, Yerba Buena Island angle, on SF Gate