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Fire Again Ravages CA Construction Site

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

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An early-morning fire on Saturday (May 13) destroyed an under-construction, 105-unit housing project near the Oakland, California, border—the second time the site has burned to the ground in the past 10 months.

Reports said the fire—the cause of which is unknown—began around 5 a.m. Saturday on the 3800 block of San Pablo Avenue in Emeryville, a small city in northwest Alameda County. Firefighters brought the blaze under control about two hours later; no injuries were immediately reported.

The Aftermath

While investigators searched for clues, crews continued to extinguish small fires into Sunday afternoon. Some residents were allowed to return to their nearby homes Sunday after being evacuated amid the five-alarm fire.

“It was a big fire, a huge fire and inferno, the biggest fire I’ve ever seen,” said Chirag Dalibar, who lives two blocks away from the unfinished structure. “There were lots of embers flying around, smoke. It was everything you would imagine that a big fire would create.”

Almost 100 firefighters from Oakland and Alameda County battled the fire. The firefighters were assisted by drones operated by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.

Traffic on adjacent streets was closed to vehicle and foot traffic, except for emergency vehicles.

Residual Destruction

Flames damaged four townhouses adjacent to the construction site, and the threat of a huge crane falling prompted authorities to move 35 residents who live on the southern portion of 3900 Adeline Street. The American Red Cross provided temporary housing.

“As you can imagine, with a fire in the same location within a 10-month period, the investigation team has its hands full,” said Alameda Fire spokesperson Aisha Knowles, who called the blaze “suspicious.”

Holliday Development, which is behind the $35 million multistory housing and retail project, had planned to finish construction this fall. Workers were a few days from putting the roof on the structure.

Alameda County Fire Dept.

The fire began around 5 a.m. Saturday on the 3800 block of San Pablo Avenue in Emeryville, California, a small city in northwest Alameda County. Firefighters brought the blaze under control about two hours later.

"I'm just infuriated," said Rick Holliday, president of Holliday Development. He said the developer would resume construction and complete the project.

Previous Blaze

Work was delayed about nine months after a six-alarm fire erupted last July, gutting the building and an adjacent auto business. Officials speculated that kids playing with fireworks was the likely cause of the first fire. Workers were building 105 apartments and 25,000 square feet of commercial space before the first fire broke out.

ATF is offering a $10,000 reward for information into the cause of the July fire.

The Alameda County Fire Department, Oakland Fire Department, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the second fire.


Tagged categories: Building Envelope; Commercial Construction; Fire; Health and safety; Housing; North America; Renovation; Retail

Comment from M. Halliwell, (5/16/2017, 10:44 AM)

Once...sure, okay, maybe local kids playing around. It happens. Twice makes it seem like someone with a grudge, especially as they waited until this project was nearing completion again. Do we have a disgruntled neighbor? Is there a construction worker worried about job security? Subcontractor getting messed with? You can bet that after the first fire, site security was increased so this one has "suspicious" written all over it.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (5/17/2017, 7:25 AM)

Perhaps the building burning is just a convenience. At an active site like that there's no way to identify everything that was consumed. < /p> Dismembered people, huge quantities of explicit photos of someone important, drugs, the President's tax returns, Batman's girlfriend, we'll never know.

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