Page One

Wind-aided fire burns Oakland residential neighborhood

The Associated Press
Friday May 04, 2001

OAKLAND — A six-alarm fire whipped by 45 mph winds destroyed a four-story building under construction and damaged or destroyed 11 homes early Thursday, fire officials said. 

Four people suffered minor injuries. 

The fire was first reported at 1:11 a.m. at East Grand Avenue near Isabella in a partially completed apartment building. 

The wind rained embers over several blocks of homes in the West Oakland neighborhood, igniting old Victorian wood-frame buildings and sending a huge cloud of smoke and embers into the sky. 

“We have some really significant issues when we have wind conditions like we had tonight. The wind was a major factor in this fire,” said Oakland Fire Chief Gerald Simon, who was at the scene. 

“It was like a tornado, a twister, but it was full of red-hot embers,” said resident Anna Jackson as she stood in the street watching the battle to halt the flames. 

It took several hours to control the flames, and three homes were still reported burning at 6 a.m. A 16-block area was cordoned off. 

The Red Cross was on the scene to provide aid, setting up a shelter at De Fremery Park near the scene for some 60 people left homeless. 

There were 45 engines and 245 firefighters on the scene. Mutual aid brought help from Alameda and Contra Costa counties and other smaller departments. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Simon said damage would be in “the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”