The cause of a fire that demolished an under-construction complex in Oakland last month cannot be determined, federal investigators said Friday, leaving open the question at the center of a battle over development and displacement in the city.
Immediately after the July 7 blaze, speculation grew that an arsonist was out to burn East Bay developments with the goal of combating gentrification. The announcement Friday did little to relieve fears among developers, who have been working to enhance security measures at project sites.
“People were concerned, ‘Was this a pattern?’” said Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who represents the area that includes Auto Row, the site of the seven-story Alta Waverly mixed-use building on Valdez Street that was destroyed. “People are about mitigating risk. They wanted to know what would be the determination of the source of the fire.”
After four fires at construction site projects in Oakland and Emeryville over the last year â two of which have been deemed arson- several developers say they are concerned, but they wonât be stopped. Sam Singer, spokesman for Wood Partners, sai Media: KTVU
“While the investigation has reached a point where an ‘undetermined’ finding is appropriate, investigators will continue to consider any new evidence or information provided by witnesses or community members,” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in a statement.
Steve Carman, a private fire investigator in Grass Valley, said the conclusion of “undetermined” was typical. During his two decades working for the ATF, he said, about a third of his cases turned out that way.