OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A dog is dead after a fire broke out Thursday morning at a homeless encampment in Oakland under Interstate 880 at 23rd Avenue. The thick black smoke caused traffic delays for morning commuters.
Officials say someone cooking could have possibly sparked the fire. Caltrans will check the integrity of a pillar that was burned in the fire.
The huge plume of smoke could be seen over Interstate 880 during the morning commute, but what commuters probably didn't see was the victims who live under the freeway. The fire burned several of their tents.
"Within a matter of seconds, the fire went from the front of this pillar, around this side, it fully engulfed their tent. As you know they lost their dog. And it jumped from their tent to our tent. Fire jumped from their tent to our tent and it just took out everything," said James Moore, fire victim.
The fire started at 7:30 a.m. on East 12th Street; five tents were destroyed and a dog died. Everyone else got out okay.
"It was very scary. I panicked, I didn't know what to do. I was worried about our lives," said Lalonnie Rivera, fire victim.
Joe Devries heads up Oakland's official efforts to deal with its growing homeless population with many of them living in tent cities. "We've learned that we really need to provide ongoing site management and security," he said.
Workers from the non-profit Operation Dignity stopped by to offer some help, but these victims say they now have a long way to go to getting on their feet.
"This isn't the best environment to have to begin with, but it's what we had. We were slowly accumulating things getting ready to try and move out of here. A little bit of work here and there -- as a matter of fact all of my tools. Now it's all about starting over from ground zero again," said Moore.
Operation Dignity handed out some brooms, blankets and bottled waters.