Major fire breaks out at construction site near Lake Merritt in Oakland

Massive fire rips through building under construction in Oakland

Firefighters hose down the building at 24th and Valdez in Oakland, July 7, 2017. The seven-story project began construction previous year.

Councilman Noel Gallo, who represents East Oakland, told The Chronicle Friday that it was too early to speculate on the cause of the latest fire.

A local reporter for ABC7 News, Alexis Smith, tweeted helicopter footage of the fire. Investigators suspect arson, while the owner is anxious the motive might be opposition to new development. "Not just cameras but people guarding buildings". It would have created 196 market-rate apartments and up to 31,000 square feet of retail.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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As of 8:30am, Oakland Fire Department officials said the fire is 85% contained, but dozens of firefighters remain on the scene. Firefighters who responded to medical calls in January and February at the three-story building reported seeing risky conditions, including exposed electrical wires and a locked door to a fire escape.

The owner had been seeking to evict a nonprofit group that was offering transitional housing in the building and refused to leave. They are expected to plead not guilty.

"We are going to be relentless in investigating this fire", said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Fires have plagued Oakland in recent months. In the two years before the fire, police were repeatedly called to parties at the warehouse.

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"We were sleeping around 5 a.m. when we heard a woman screaming there was a fire across the street", she said.

The fire near Valdez and 23rd streets, northwest of Lake Merritt, sent flames high into the air, and a plume of smoke was visible for miles.

Fire crews are battling a massive fire at an apartment complex in Oakland, California.

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