Oakland construction fire, July 25, 2019

Doug Sovern/KCBS Radio

Arson Suspected After Another Construction Site Burns Down

Doug Sovern
July 26, 2019 - 6:03 pm

OAKLAND — A small development in Oakland was destroyed by a fire and officials are investigating if an arsonist torched it. 

The two-story building on Stanford Avenue near the Emeryville border was in the process of being converted from a print shop into a seven-unit live-work loft complex. The fire started at about 10 p.m. Thursday and by the time it was put out less than an hour later, half of the building had been incinerated. 

“Depressing,” said longtime Oakland developer Tony Wilson. “It’s sad because we put a lot of work into it.”

Local and federal investigators are looking into the cause.

Related: Apartment Complex Destroyed By Fire In Santa Clara

“As of now we have no known cause. As of now we have no known origin,” said Oakland Fire Department Battalion Chief Demond Simmons. His department is working with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine the cause of the fire.

While it may seem unusual to enlist the ATF, Simmons said “it has been somewhat of a normal practice here in the city of Oakland with the recent fires that we’ve had in buildings under construction.”

Several of those fires have turned out to be arsons. Wilson said hhe would not be surprised if that was the case here.

“My first assumption was that someone torched it," he said. 

This development is smaller than the ones that have been targeted by arsonists.  Rather than gentrify the neighborhood, this project was intended to house artists, Wilson said.

Now, it could be a long time before the lot houses anyone. “We have to go back to the city and start all over again," he said, "and dealing with the city of Oakland planning department is not a lot of fun anymore.”