Arson Cause of Concord Fire That Destroyed Apartment Building Under Construction, ATF Says
An apartment house under construction near downtown Concord as it burned early on April 24. (ABC7 via Twitter)
Updated May 30, 2018
The three-alarm fire that destroyed a massive under-construction apartment building in downtown Concord on April 24 was caused by arson, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives San Francisco Field Division.
“After examining all the evidence, ATF has determined the cause of the April 24 fire to be incendiary, meaning that it was intentionally set and is considered an act of arson,” said Jill A. Snyder, ATF San Francisco Field Division special agent in charge in a press release.
The Contra Costa Fire Department had requested assistance from the ATF to determine the cause of the fire. The ATF is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
The ATF also released surveillance video showing a man who they said is the suspect hopping a fence into the construction site and then running away after the fire erupted.
Updated 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, to add quote from Concord housing official.
A three-alarm fire that destroyed a massive under-construction apartment building in downtown Concord early Tuesday is believed to have caused $55 million in damage.
The blaze injured two people, prompted the evacuation of 250 others, closed several streets and led Contra Costa County health officials to issue a public health advisory that was lifted just after 7:30 a.m.
People with pre-existing respiratory conditions were urged to stay away from the burning building, which covers most of a block between Willow Pass Road and Clayton Road just west of Galindo Street.
Residents nearby had been advised to close their windows to keep the smoke out.
The fire was first reported just before 1 a.m.
"The fire was extremely advanced when we arrived on scene," said Contra Costa Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Robert Marshall. "That created quite a challenge for us because the building was already starting to collapse."
Eventually, about 75 firefighters arrived on scene.
The blaze spread throughout all 260,000 square feet of the building, which was about 60 percent completed.
"We are considering it a complete loss," Marshall said.
Two people were transported to the hospital for minor smoke inhalation.
Residents in several buildings in the area of the fire had to evacuate.
Firefighters were able to get control of the blaze by 5 a.m., but it is still burning and sending out a significant amount of smoke.
Marshall confirmed earlier reports that federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive agents have been called in to help investigate the blaze.
"Because of the size of this fire we needed additional resources," Marshall said, adding that at least one ATF agent was already on the scene.
Investigators have not been able to enter the building to look into any potential causes. It may be a couple of days before the structure is safe enough for people to survey the inside.
The city's director of Community and Economic Development said the city is doing all it can to ensure the evacuated residents of the Renaissance Square apartments next door can return to their units.
"We are working as our highest priority to ensure the safe reoccupation of those units," said Andrea Ouse.
The building that burned is the second-phase of the Renaissance housing project and is designed for 180 units of market-rate rental apartments.
"The loss of it is tragic and the fact that they had been working on this project for well over three years means that we have to start again," Ouse said.
A call to the private developers, Legacy Partners of Foster City, was not immediately returned, but Ouse said she is "optimistic" the project will get back on track. "We will do everything possible to expedite the rebuild of this critical part of our housing community."
Original post, 3:30 a.m. Tuesday: A three-alarm fire destroyed an under-construction apartment building in downtown Concord early Tuesday, forcing evacuations and promising to snarl morning rush-hour traffic.
Contra Costa Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Robert Marshall told Bay City News the blaze was reported about 1 a.m. and that the burning building -- which covered most of a block between Willow Pass Road and Clayton Road just west of Galindo Street -- was the second phase of the Renaissance Square development.
"The majority of the building was under construction without any sheetrock whatsoever, so there's just no way to control that," Marshall said. He added that much of the structure had collapsed.
The intensity of the blaze prompted fire officials to order residents to leave the adjacent first phase of the development, which fronts on Galindo Street.
Marshall told KCBS radio that residents of that apartment complex remained evacuated as of 4 a.m. Marshall said there were no immediate reports of injuries.
Marshall said firefighters from his agency were engaged in a "completely defensive" operation, with ladder trucks around the perimeter of the blaze dumping water on the structure. He said 18 engines and about 60 firefighters were battling the blaze.
There was no early word on what caused the blaze, and Marshall told KCBS that his department has asked for investigative assistance from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Four major residential buildings under construction burned in Oakland between July 2016 and July 2017. Investigators determined that two of those fires were the result of arson.
The fire agency said with mop-up operations expected to continue for hours Tuesday, the morning commute will be impacted. Galindo Street, Willow Pass Road, Concord Boulevard and Clayton Road were all closed.
The site is about two blocks west of the Concord BART station, which was unaffected by the blaze.