Posted by on April 24, 2018
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Categories: Bay Area

(by Dan McMenamin) – A three-alarm fire at a 180-unit apartment complex that was still
under construction in Concord injured two people early this morning and led
to the evacuation of roughly 260 people from a neighboring building, causing
roughly $55 million in damage, firefighters said.

The fire was reported at 12:55 a.m. at an apartment building under
construction near the intersection of Clayton Road and Galindo streets,
according to the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.

The two people injured suffered from smoke inhalation and were
taken to a hospital. Fire crews had contained the blaze as of 5 a.m. but will
remain at the scene today to put out any hot spots.

The fire triggered a number of road closures as first responders
arrived at the scene. Some have reopened since then, but police said areas of
Willow Pass and Clayton roads will remain closed in the area around the scene
of the 2.78-acre fire for the duration of the investigation.

County health officials had issued a public health advisory,
saying smoke and other pollutants from the fire could affect people sensitive
to respiratory illnesses.

There is still smoke coming from the structure, but that advisory
was lifted at 7:39 a.m.

Residents should avoid direct contact with or inhalation of ash
and debris from the fire. Those materials can be cleaned with soap and water.

County health officials recommend dampening the ash before sweeping to
minimize the generation of dust.

The pollution from the fire could accumulate in nearby creeks and
rivers, so people who live nearby should avoid sweeping any ash or debris
into storm drains where it might adversely affect the watershed.

Fire Marshal Robert Marshall said the building was the second
phase of the Renaissance Square apartments. It was 60 percent complete and a
mostly wood structure.

“The majority of the building was under construction without any
sheetrock whatsoever, so there’s just no way to control that,” Marshall said.

Buildings still under construction tend to burn more quickly than
completed structures because fire prevention measures like a sprinkler system
typically may not be in place yet, Marshall said.

He said a large portion of the building had collapsed as a result
of the fire.

Residents who were evacuated from a neighboring building, also
part of the Renaissance Square complex, have not yet been allowed to return
home due to concerns that the damaged structure could further collapse. First
responders and structural engineers are working to make the scene safe,
firefighters said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, with the
assistance of the U.S. Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

That agency was also called in to investigate a series of three
fires at large apartment complexes that were under construction in Oakland
and Emeryville in 2016 and 2017.

Then in July, they released photos of a man they said was an arson
suspect and announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to his arrest
and conviction.

Concord Mayor Edi Birsan said that although this was one of the
city’s largest fires in recent memory, Concord has a history of rebuilding
after major fires.

“We will rebuild,” Birsan said. “This is Concord.”