Lit Candle Blamed In Deadly Oakland Apartment Fire

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A four-alarm fire that broke out at a West Oakland apartment building early Monday morning killing four people has been deemed accidental, officials with Mayor Libby Schaaf’s office said Thursday.

Erica Derryck, a spokeswoman for Schaaf’s office, also confirmed that a candle caused the deadly blaze at 2551 San Pablo Ave.

A fire investigation report is expected to be completed within the next few weeks.

The Alameda County coroner’s bureau has identified two of the four victims who died as 64-year-old Edwarn Anderson and 50-year-old Cassandra Robertson, who both lived at the building.

The identities of the two other fatal victims have not been released.

Four others were hospitalized after the fire with non-life threatening injuries.

The building housed between 80 and 100 residents, according to Oakland fire officials.

Residents at the scene of the fire on Monday said they didn’t hear any smoke or fire alarms go off during the blaze at the building, which was used as a transitional housing facility for homeless people, those getting out of prison and people with mental health issues.

Only three days before the fire an Oakland Fire Department inspector visited the site and found 11 safety problems, according to city records.

In a report after his visit to the building on March 24, Fire Inspector David Davis ordered that the building’s property manager, Monsa Nitoto, immediately certify and service the building’s fire alarm and sprinkler systems.

Davis also said the building’s management should provide other basic fire safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, emergency lighting, exit signs and evacuation maps.

Additionally, the inspector also found that extension cords were being used in place of electrical outlets throughout the building and ordered that they be removed.

Davis furthermore said mattresses on the Mead Avenue side of the building should be removed and furniture needed to be removed from an interior courtyard.

Davis also said that the building management needed to obtain building permits for any construction within the interior courtyard and repair a large breach or hole in the ceiling of the corridor on the Mead Avenue side of the building.

Under the city of Oakland’s regulations, property owners have 30 days to correct violations and a follow-up inspection is then done to confirm compliance.

The apartment building also had a history of code violations, according to city records.

On March 2, Urojas Community Services, the building’s master tenant, asked city officials to inspect the building alleging that there was deferred maintenance. Oakland city officials verified the violation, according to city records.

Prior to that, on Feb. 23, a neighbor complained that there were large amounts of trash and debris, building materials and furniture on the back of the property. The city verified that complaint and sent a notice of violation, according to city records.

On Dec. 29, there was a housing habitability complaint alleging that there was no working heat throughout the building, electrical issues, and a large pest infestation. The city is still investigating that complaint, according to records.

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