VIDEO: Massive Oakland fire is out, hundreds evacuated from scene


(KRON) — Officials say a fire is out after destroying an Oakland construction site.

The fire, which broke out at about 4:30 a.m. at 2302 Valdez Street, didn’t result in any injuries or deaths, but several neighboring homes and apartment buildings were evacuated over fears that a large construction crane at the center of the site might topple over and cause additional damage.

“With a fire this size it is a miracle that we have had no loss of life, no injuries and nothing more than what appears to be cosmetic damage to any ancillary or surrounding structures,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

About 700 to 900 residents near the Oakland building that was destroyed Friday morning by fire were evacuated from their homes.

Many will spend the night in an emergency shelter set up about nine blocks from the building near Lake Merritt. No one was injured.

The fire began early Friday at a building under construction, forcing nearby evacuations and sending flames high into the air.

A plume of smoke was visible for miles. Streets in the area were closed. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The building was being built for apartments and retail space.

The American Red Cross has set up a resource center for evacuees at the nearby Cathedral of Christ the Light, which will remain open until 5 p.m.

Also, people can find shelter and other assistance from the Red Cross at the St. Vincent de Paul Community Center at 2272 San Pablo Avenue.

Ten people have asked for assistance with finding places to stay and the rest are making their own arrangements, according to city officials.

It’s unclear when people will be allowed to return to their homes since fire officials still don’t know how unstable the crane, the site’s construction scaffolding and the building itself are, said Oakland Fire Department Interim Chief Darin White.

Alameda County sheriff’s deputies will use a drone equipped with a camera to fly into the areas still inaccessible to fire crews in order to try to evaluate the crane’s stability, White said.

Part of the building already collapsed across Valdez Street during the fire, and the crane was spinning wildly for a time, buffeted by the intense heat, according to Battalion Chief Zoraida Diaz.

The building that burned, the Alta Waverly apartment project, was to be seven stories tall and feature 196 market-rate apartments, as well as 31,000 square feet of retail space.

It was slated for completion in Spring 2018.

Both Gibson McElhaney and Schaaf lamented the loss of the apartment stock, noting that the entire region is in the midst of a housing crisis that has driven rents to stratospheric levels in recent years.

Additionally, the possibility that the fire might have been intentionally set prompted Schaaf to say the city will bring all available resources to bear in order to determine the cause of the fire and to protect the city’s development projects.

Arson investigators from Alameda County, the Oakland Fire Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are on the scene of Friday’s conflagration, and while White stopped short of calling the fire suspicious, he is asking anyone who might have seen anything suspicious to contact the fire department.

The fire, which broke out at about 4:30 a.m., bears some resemblance to a pair of suspected arson fires at a construction site in Emeryville in early July and mid-May.

All the fires started in the early morning hours, with the two Emeryville fires reported at 2:45 a.m. and 5 a.m., and all the fires broke out at apartment buildings under construction that were in advanced stages of completion.

At Friday’s fire, crews were able to protect all the neighboring buildings, the closest of which sustained only heat damage due to the quick action of the first crews on the scene, White said.

The team of about 80 firefighters from Oakland, Alameda County, Albany and Berkeley were able to knock the fire down by about 7:30 a.m., according to White.

No injuries have been reported and no additional fires were ignited by the copious amount of hot ash that blanketed surrounding neighborhoods, White said.

Ash was sighted as far away as M.L.K. Jr. Way and 36th Street as well as Radnor Road and Cleveland Street – both roughly a mile away in different directions.

Kamilah Mims lives in an apartment building on Waverly Street next to the parking garage of the building that caught fire.

She was standing on Grand Avenue with her kitten Kango and watching firefighters battle the blaze.”We were sleeping around 5 a.m. when we heard a woman screaming

“We were sleeping around 5 a.m. when we heard a woman screaming there was a fire across the street,” she said.Mims said she grabbed her kitten and evacuated her building.

Mims said she grabbed her kitten and evacuated her building.

“We were scared, because we weren’t sure if it would spread or what would happen if the building came down,” she said. “I’m happy it didn’t spread.”

Sarah Tyack lives in the building at 100 Grand Ave., just across the street from where the fire broke out.

She said she was in her apartment when she heard someone announce that there was a fire.”At first I thought it was our building,” she said.

“At first I thought it was our building,” she said.Tyack looked out her window, saw flames and evacuated.

Tyack looked out her window, saw flames and evacuated.Pamela Caryl, a resident of 206 23rd St., said she was puzzled by being asked to evacuate because the fire was not in her building.

She was told that the crane at the construction site was posing a danger to her building.

Caryl said the fire really didn’t frighten her. She just felt inconvenienced.

Cathedral of Christ the Light Rev. James Matthews said he got a call at 5:15 a.m. to go and look out his window.

Matthews saw flames that looked as if they were right across the street, which concerned him because he has an older cousin who lives at 100 Grand Ave.

He went to check on his cousin and as he returned the American Red Cross stopped him and asked him whether he would open the church to the people who had to evacuate.

The church opened its event center, which is typically used by businesses to hold conferences. Fortunately, it wasn’t already booked, Matthews said.

Upwards of 150 evacuees used the center, which opened at about 6:30 a.m. By about 8 a.m. some of them had left, however.

When asked what kind of reaction people had to the fire, Matthews said, “They were in shock.”

But no life was lost, Matthews said to a group of evacuees, and that was the biggest concern.

He told them now is a time for them to get to know each other, and the event center will be open as long as necessary.

“That’s what good neighbors are for,” he said.



Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Tracking COVID-19 in the Bay Area

Trending Stories

Latest News

More News