OAKLAND (CBS SF) – An arson investigation is underway following a fire late Wednesday night at an Oakland home owned by three people the city is suing, fire officials said Thursday.

The one-alarm fire was reported at 10:51 p.m. at 1030 Foothill Blvd. and may have been set by the property owners, which the city has identified as King V. Chau, James H. Chau, and Judy N. Chau. The three apparently own the property that caught fire as well as a property at 1130 E. 11th St. in Oakland.

Both properties city officials have identified as high-fire-hazard properties, and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman on Dec. 9 appointed a custodian to take over management of the properties. Attorneys for the city allege that the Chaus have failed to provide safe and habitable housing for their tenants at the properties.

Scene of suspicious fire at a property on 1030 Foothill Blvd. in Oakland on December 18, 2020. (Bay City News Service)

Scene of suspicious fire at a property on 1030 Foothill Blvd. in Oakland on December 18, 2020. (Bay City News Service)

“In the midst of a global pandemic and with winter upon us, there is even greater urgency to ensure Oaklanders’ basic rights are protected,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement Monday after the court order was announced.

She said the court ruling grants the tenants the relief they need.

Six fires have occurred between the two properties in the last few years, city attorneys said. After the fifth fire, tenants at the 1030 Foothill Blvd. location allegedly lacked electricity and gas, forcing them to use battery-powered lights, quilts for warmth and cook using charcoal indoors, according to the city attorney’s office.

City officials also allege that the Chaus rented out units that were illegally converted, did not provide smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors, installed unapproved wiring, and stored combustible materials on site.

The Chaus have allegedly repeatedly harassed their tenants, the city’s allegations include.

Smoke was coming from the basement of the Foothill Boulevard home when firefighters arrived Wednesday night at 10:54 p.m.

Flames were intense, fire officials said, and there was a concern that adjacent homes could catch fire. Firefighters contained the fire to the one home.

The fire was brought under control in about an hour after it was reported. No one was injured, fire spokesman Michael Hunt said.

The cost of the damage is unclear, Hunt said, because the home had been damaged previously in a fire.

City attorneys said the city has tried everything short of taking legal action to get the Chaus to alter their properties, so they comply with the law.

According to city attorneys, Oakland code compliance staff have conducted 27 inspections, issued eight notices of violations, and among other actions, red-tagged one or both properties declaring them unsafe for occupation.

The appointed custodian will not only manage the properties but also restore safety and protect the tenants’ tights, city attorneys said.

The city’s suit seeks punitive damages, civil penalties, restitution, and attorneys’ fees.

Several attempts to reach the Chaus were unsuccessful.

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