About 90 firefighters fought the inferno shortly after it began about 2 a.m. Tuesday. The fire quickly swept through the 126 unit development called Icehouse, approximately 55 units were destroyed.
Frank Kapley-Alfano showed an ABC 7 News crew what he captured from his home over night.
"It was the hugest fire I have ever seen in my life and there were embers and fire raining down," Kapley-Alfano said. "We had our hoses on and we were just praying that the embers wouldn't catch our houses on fire."
Kapley-Alfano didn't lose his home, but Jerry Goree did.
"All I could see was my truck burned down, broke my heart," Goree said. "I was using it to sleep in because I'm homeless."
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf stopped short of calling it a deliberate act.
Here’s what the original fire looks like right now. This is at West Grand and Filbert in Oakland. The fire started at 2am pic.twitter.com/poySFl4GkB— Amy Hollyfield (@amyhollyfield) October 23, 2018
"We do not know if this fire was caused by an arsonist but we do know arsonists have been trying to burn down housing projects in Oakland," Schaaf said.
Since 2012, there have been five suspicious fires targeting housing projects under construction in Oakland.
The builder of the IceHouse project says he knew about recent fires and took no chances.
"We have security cameras on site and a security guard on site, still this fire started," said Phil Kerr from City Ventures Homebuilding.
Oakland firefighters now dealing with fire inside a shed on Isabella. They tell me- “look at the size of the embers that were falling from the big fire on West Grand! That’s why!” pic.twitter.com/c3F6qidzYd— Amy Hollyfield (@amyhollyfield) October 23, 2018
Footage from the construction site's surveillance cameras is being reviewed by authorities.
Fire officials say about the same time Tuesday morning, there was an attempted arson at a residential project also under construction at Peralta and 32nd. Luckily there was no damage.
"We are on heightened alert trying to make sure we do our due diligence, trying to find out if these two incidents are related," said Oakland Fire Chief Darin White.
Embers from the blaze drifted several blocks away to Isabella Street where several homes caught fire but were quickly put out causing only minor damage.
"People need to stop setting fires and burning housing projects down," said neighbor Wanda Moss.
Ice House consisted of 126 town homes. More than 52 units were already sold at prices starting at $600,000.
Phil Kerr, CEO of Homebuilding City Ventures told ABC 7 News the company would be working individually with each family that purchased an impacted unit. Kerr said work will begin on the portion of the building not impacted by the fire on Monday.
Schaaf announced a tip line has been opened at 510-238-4031.
Alameda county sheriff’s deputies brought a drone in to get footage above the fire to help Oakland firefighters as they battle the huge fire. pic.twitter.com/bBkrlj26cg— Amy Hollyfield (@amyhollyfield) October 23, 2018
Here’s what the situation now looks like in West Oakland. The building is still standing but has significant damage according to the fire chief. These were townhomes under construction. pic.twitter.com/AxaC3OimiD— Amy Hollyfield (@amyhollyfield) October 23, 2018
Firefighters have a handle on the massive fire in West Oakland. It is now very smoky and they are tackling flare ups. This was a building of townhomes that was under construction. No injuries. It took them about 80 minutes to get it knocked down. This is Filbert and W. Grand pic.twitter.com/d3aw7PFCSZ— Amy Hollyfield (@amyhollyfield) October 23, 2018
The building on fire in West Oakland was called Ice House. It was going to be townhomes priced around $600,000. Workers on the project say this is upsetting and frustrating. About 50-75 jobs now lost they estimate. Fire chief says the building had security guards and cameras.— Amy Hollyfield (@amyhollyfield) October 23, 2018