Flames race through East Oakland businesses

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Fire investigators say a massive 4-alarm fire that ripped through a commercial building in East Oakland early Saturday morning, does not appear to be suspicious.  Fire officials have not yet, however, determined the cause of the blaze that started at about 1:30 a.m. at the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and 73rd Avenue.

A total of ten businesses were destroyed including a Metro PCS store, a barbershop, a thrift store, an antique store, a tax office, and a popular restaurant, the Star Fish Seafood Cafe.  The restaurant’s owner, Patrick Former, said he spent almost five years building a positive reputation in the neighborhood.

“I’m devastated, shocked, sad,” Former said.   “I would love to stay here in the neighborhood because the community after four and a half years, they began to receive us with love and they knew that we loved them.”

The business owners leased the space and renters insurance should cover their immediate financial losses.  Oakland’s Vice Mayor Desley Brooks, who spent most of the day Saturday at the site of the fire, said most of the business owners had not saved money to deal with a catastrophe such as this.

“There were a lot of ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses here just trying to survive, and then this happens,” Brooks said.   Brooks added that she planned to meet with many of the business owners next week, to figure out how the city could assist them.  

The owner of the Star Fish Seafood cafe said he would likely try his hand at catering while he figures out where he can relocate the restaurant.