It could possibly be arson, according to the fire chief.
Flames tore through the building on Lincoln Circle. It is a total loss. "I could see the firefighters cutting the roof open and then suddenly, you see red flames everywhere," Millbrae resident You-You Xue said.
It quickly escalated into four alarms as firefighters struggled to contain the flames. "An attic fire notoriously is difficult for us to put out, you know. We've had crews here going on here for four or five hours," Central County Fire Chief John Kammeyer said.
"But you know to go ahead and sit down in the house is worse than coming out and looking at it. I would rather just look at it because if I sit in there, my nerves go erreerreerr," Millbrae resident Bea Brigaerds said.
Nearly six hours later, firefighters are still spraying down the charred frame of the beloved community center.
Despite a hard-fought battle, the work is really just beginning. Investigators are trying to determine who or what caused the fire.
There's also the question of where the community groups who use the center will go in the meantime. "This is a huge loss. Every year, tons of programs come out here. The community really comes together in the park over there," Xue said.
A youth program has been moved to a nearby school and community organizers are working to find other locations for the different organizations and events that take place at the community center.
There are so many fire trucks, about 25 at its peak, that people that live in the nearby apartments had to call for ride shares or taxis because their cars were trapped behind all the fire trucks.