Fire at Oakland construction site latest in string of blazes

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A fire burned an Oakland warehouse Thursday night that was in the process of being converted into apartments, the latest in a string of destructive fires at construction sites.

Firefighters responded just before 10 p.m. to reports of a blaze at the three-story building at 919 Stanford Ave., according to Oakland fire Battalion Chief Demond Simmons.%INLINE%

Embers from the fire spread to two other locations, so firefighters called a second alarm response. The other two fires were quickly extinguished. 

It took about an hour to get the fire at the warehouse out, which caused extensive damage to the building.%INLINE%

The cause of the blaze has not been determined. Oakland fire investigators along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating.

"Hopefully in the next day or two they will have some info that they can reveal," Simmons said.

There are several buildings with surveillance cameras in the area surrounding that fire, and Simmons said that investigators are working with the owners to obtain that footage.

The warehouse was a former printing shop. Local developer Wilson Associates was in the process of converting it into seven live-work units and two residential units, according to city planning records.

The blaze was the latest in a string of fires at construction sites in Oakland, most of which have been confirmed as arson. One suspect was charged and convicted of arson, but only with a single fire last October.

Local developers have added security upgrades to development projects for fear of becoming the latest target for arson. For example, Madison Park has added lighting, reinforced fencing, and obtained special permission from the city to place razor wire around its projects. %INLINE%

The string of arson and suspicious fires dates back to 2012, when a massive fire at senior housing under construction next to the West Oakland BART station burned in a massive blaze that shut down BART service. The ATF later determined that fire to be arson. 

In July 2016, a planned 105-unit apartment building at 3800 San Pablo Ave. on the Oakland-Emeryville border burned down in another incident later confirmed to be arson. 

On Oct. 31, 2016, a 41-unit apartment building at 317 Lester Ave. near Lake Merritt burned in another confirmed arson fire. 

Then on July 7, 2017, a planned six-story building at 2302 Valdez St. also burned down. Investigators were unable to determine a cause for that fire.

Rick Holliday, the developer of the 3800 San Pablo Ave. building, was in the process of rebuilding when the project burned a second time on May 13, 2017. 

In that case, the ATF released video footage of a hooded man riding a bicycle to the construction site at 2:24 a.m., putting on a mask and climbing the scaffolding, but the suspect has not been found or arrested.

In October, a planned development on West Grand Avenue and Filbert Street in West Oakland burned in a massive blaze that could be seen for miles. 

An hour later, another fire was started at the Hollis Oak Apartments, a planned 124-unit housing complex at 3250 Hollis St., only about a mile from the West Grand Avenue development.

That fire failed to catch to the extent the others did, and investigators recovered DNA evidence linking the fire to Dustin Bellinger, aka Faheem Bey, who was arrested in November.

Bellinger, who has connections to the Bey family that ran Your Black Muslim Bakery until it was shut down during an investigation into several murders in 2007, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of arson in June in connection with the Hollis Street fire.

He has not been connected to any other fires at construction sites and the others remain unsolved. Bellinger is scheduled to be sentenced on the single count on Sept. 9.