A large mixed-use complex under construction near the Whole Foods and Lake Merritt in Oakland's Uptown neighborhood caught fire early Friday morning, reaching four alarms and leading to the evacuations of hundreds of residents in its vicinity. As ABC 7 reports, the fire at the seven-story, 196-unit market-rate residential and retail complex began before dawn and has been a massive blaze that firefighters are still battling. So far, no injuries or fatalities have been reported.
KTVU reports that the fire was first reported at 4:21 a.m., but also "Someone who works at the site told KTVU that the motion sensors inside the building picked [up] some activity about 4:45 a.m."
Footage from CBS 5 shown above shows the fire burning before sunrise today, with the large construction crane at its center spinning from the heat. As they report, the complex, known as the Alta Waverly, spans three city blocks and sits at 24th and Valdez Streets, near Grand Avenue. It was slated to open next year.
The fire has sent up a massive plume of smoke billowing over the Bay and visible for many miles.
View from Alameda. pic.twitter.com/BDGWvxNcRq— Kasie Kyle (@Kmkyle2591) July 7, 2017
Per CBS 5, "Small explosions were heard as the flames moved through the structure and a large crane dangled over the blaze, threatening to possibly collapse."
There have not been reports that the fire spread to adjacent buildings, but both ABC 7 and the Chronicle spoke to the same couple who live next door to the fire, the Khamphous, who said they evacuated with essential belongings like passports, and tell ABC 7, "We lost everything."
Video from KTVU below shows portions of the structure collapsing, and live video from them shows the fire mostly under control as of 7:30 a.m., but large amounts of water still pouring onto the site from firefighters' ladders.
Because the fire occurred in a large residential complex under construction, it calls to mind the pair of fires at the same construction site in nearby Emeryville, the most recent in May. There, the developer feels certain it was an act of arson, and we learned a month ago that investigators were seeking an arson suspect on a bicycle who was seen in surveillance video.
But this is also the third major, massive fire to hit Oakland in seven months, beginning with the Ghost Ship fire in December, and then with the large halfway house on San Pablo Avenue that burned in March.
Oakland Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney spoke to KTVU by phone this morning saying she was grateful there were no injuries, but that it's upsetting to see this large source of market-rate housing go up in flames. "This was supposed to relieve the pressure of some of the housing demand," she told the station. "This is very disheartening."
Update: Via PR spokesperson Sam Singer, a press release went out from Alta Waverly developer Wood Partners. "Our deepest concern goes out to those impacted by this unfortunate event,” says Wood Partners CEO Joe Keough. "We are grateful that no injuries were sustained and we are working closely with local fire officials and investigators to identify the cause of the fire."
Reportedly, some residents of neighboring buildings are still not being allowed to return home, and a Red Cross shelter was set up at Christ the Light Cathedral for 100 or so evacuated residents. It's unclear to what extent any of these neighboring buildings was effected by the blaze.
The fire was brought under control as of 8 a.m. Friday.