OAKLAND (CBS SF & AP) — At least three people were killed in a four-alarm fire that quickly swept through an Oakland residential building early Monday, forcing firefighters to make numerous rescues.
One other person was unaccounted for and officials were trying to determine whether or not the person was in the building at the time of the fire. Four others were taken to the hospital for treatment, including two children. All four were expected to be release Monday evening, according to Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Erik Logan.
The Alameda County Coroner’s Office identified one of the deceased victims as 64-year-old Edwarn Anderson. He was one of two victims found dead on the building’s second floor, Logan said.
About 80 to 100 people lived in the West Oakland building, Logan said, which housed people recovering from addiction. He said crews were able to rescue seven people before the intensity of the fire forced firefighters from the building.
Officials said they received calls reporting the fire around 6 a.m. and crews were quickly on the scene. However, the blaze was well underway and they rapidly elevated the fire to four alarms and retreated from the burning structure.
The blaze was visible for several miles and sent a massive plume of smoke over Oakland.
Records show the building has been the target of building department investigations and citations since 2010, when the city allowed the owner to convert the structure into transitional housing for recovering drug addicts, people struggling with homelessness and others.
City records show a building inspector on March 6 had verified a violation involving deferred maintenance. The violation had been alleged by the nonprofit organization that rented two of the three floors of the structure for the transitional housing.
City records also show the building owner was cited on March 2 for large amounts of trash and debris stacked around the property.
Residents said the debris was recently removed, but other problems persisted.
City records show an open investigation into complaints about electrical issues, pests and lack of heat.
An attorney for a nonprofit organization and the building’s biggest tenant said the landlord was trying to evict the group which houses people recovering from addiction, prison and life on the streets.
Lawyer James Cook, who represents Urojas Community Services, said the organization rented the first and second floors of the three-story building that caught fire Monday.
Residents reported deplorable living conditions, including nearly unpassable hallways filled with trash, tattered furniture and other debris.
Cook said building owner Keith Kim began trying to evict the nonprofit shortly after a devastating Oakland warehouse fire in December killed three dozen partygoers.
Cook said he last spoke with Kim’s attorney on Friday. Kim did not immediately return a request for comment.
A 49-year-old woman named Angie who lived in the facility for roughly two months said she did not hear any smoke detectors or fire alarms go off during the fire.
“It was scary,” Angie said. “All I thought about was the people I love, my friends and the people I care about getting hurt.”
Gilbert Jones, a 64-year-old retiree who has lived in the building for about two years, said he also didn’t hear any smoke or fire alarms going off.
Jones said he was awakened by people shouting “fire” and “get out” in the hallway outside of his second floor unit.
He opened his front door and was confronted by thick smoke and flames but was able to make his way to a fire escape at the front of the building and climb down to safety with one or two other residents.
Both Jones and Angie said they think the fire could have started in a second floor unit where a man had been burning candles but fire officials have not yet said what they think the cause is.
In December, three dozen partygoers died in an Oakland warehouse fire that was the deadliest structure fire in the U.S. in more than a decade. The warehouse housed an artists’ collective.
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