Scaffolding collapses after 3-alarm fire at Concord complex that injured 2

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CONCORD (BCN) A wall of scaffolding five stories high collapsed today at the scene of a three-alarm fire that started in Concord at a 180-unit apartment complex that was still under construction, and firefighters anticipate that it could collapse further, Assistant Fire Chief Terence Carey of the Contra 
Costa County Fire Protection District said.

The fire was reported at 12:55 a.m. at an apartment building under construction near the intersection of Clayton Road and Galindo Street.

So far it has injured two people and led to the evacuation of roughly 260 people from a neighboring building, causing roughly $55 million in damage, fire officials said.

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 through the night to put out any hot spots. 

The fire triggered a number of road closures as first responders arrived at the scene. Some roads have reopened, but police said areas near 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 and inhaling 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 such as a sprinkler system typically are not in place yet.

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, fire 
officials said.

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

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

In July, ATF officials 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."