OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — A massive and suspicious 5-alarm erupted at an Oakland townhouse complex Tuesday afternoon, and investigators are attempting to piece together patterns between this fire and other suspicious fires that have been blazing in the East Bay in recent years.
The fires have been occurring when construction projects are at their most vulnerable: right after the wood has been placed and the sheet rocks and sprinklers haven’t been installed.
Despite surveillance cameras, barbed wire and even 24-hour manned security, the overnight fires at construction sites continued and no arrests have yet been made.
As was the case with several of the suspicious fires, agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and a national response team have been sent to the scene to search for evidence of arson. Wednesday marked their second day of investigating.
A press conference was held in Oakland around 5 p.m. Wednesday evening addressing Tuesday’s blaze and the progress being made in the investigations.
“They’re on site, effective today. And they’re doing their due diligence to begin in the investigation and tedious work involved in sorting through the scene and following up on the leads involving what occurred yesterday,” said Oakland Fire Chief Darin White.
However, White also said that it is still unclear if Tuesday’s fire is directly connected to other housing projects that have gone up in flames in the Easy Bay over the last few years.
“Keep in mind, they’re just getting started. They have a lot of work ahead of them–it’s a large incident and a very large site. So because of that, we ask for your patience,” he said.
“They all look like they have a similar signature, occurring at a central point when the property is most vulnerable,” said Greg McConnell, president of the Oakland Jobs and Housing Coalition.
“The person who is doing this knows what they are doing unfortunately.”
“When it’s in this stage of construction this is when they can get in and get out it catches fire quick to create a huge fire of huge magnitude,” said John Simontacchi of Firefree Coatings.
Oakland city officials also had a message for the arsonist or group of arsonists.
“If there is some political or social motivation–stop it. We will catch you,” warned McConnell.
A $300,000 reward is being offered for any information that may lead to an arrest in yesterday’s fire.