Six-alarm fire, explosions rock Emeryville

Neighbors warned each other early Wednesday morning after they heard explosions during a six-alarm fire on the border of Oakland and Emeryville that destroyed a five-story apartment building under construction, an auto repair shop and four townhouses.

The fire was reported at about 2:45 a.m. at 3800 San Pablo Ave.

That address is the location of the Intersection, a project that proposed to rehabilitate the historic Maz Building with 105 apartments and 25,000 square feet of commercial space.

“The explosions just started going off, one after another,” 39th Street resident Veronica Young said. “It was stronger than fireworks.” The lights were out along 39th Street when people knocked on the doors of their neighbors to warn them of the fire. Charred remains of the building were strewn on the sidewalk for two or more blocks from the center of the fire.

“People were banging on doors screaming ‘fire, fire’,” Young said.

“Very scary. We thought we were all going to have to leave.” Apgar Street resident Sheryl Angelo said she didn’t hear anything until someone knocked on her door.

Another 39th Street resident, who declined to give his name, was back home with his two small children after the fire had been contained and said his family spent much of the morning at a neighbor’s home farther from the fire.

Flames spread from the building under construction to adjacent townhouses and an auto repair shop. Four townhouse units and the auto shop were destroyed, as were 12 cars at the shop, Deputy Fire Chief Jim Call said.

“A fire of this size is very rare,” Call said.

About 100 firefighters from various regional fire agencies responded to the blaze, which was contained by 7:50 a.m. Call said crews will remain on scene until this evening to put out any hot spots and to monitor the scene.

He said no injuries were reported in the fire and “that’s the best news.” About 50 people were displaced and are being assisted by the American Red Cross at the Emeryville Senior Center at 4321 Salem St., according to Call.

Only scaffolding remained standing among the charred wreckage of the building under construction. The wood-framed building produced a lot of heat during the fire, Call said.

Fire crews used a drone from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to provide command staff with thermal imaging and an aerial view of the fire to see what hot spots needed to be put out, Call said.

East Bay Municipal Utility District officials increased water pressure at the scene to help firefighters with the defensive attack of the fire, according to fire officials.

The cause and origin of the fire are under investigation and a monetary estimate of the damage it caused has not been determined.