I-Team: Oakland building fire appears to fit string of suspected arsons

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The builder tells the I-Team there were "no known threats" to this project before today's inferno, but it appears to fit into a string of suspected arson fires in the area in recent years.

RELATED: Oakland officials investigate fire at building under construction

The marketing photo for the "Alta Waverly" project shows its promise -- 196 units of badly-needed housing in Oakland, 31-thousand square feet of retail.

But the project was in a crucial stage before the fire retardant and stucco was applied. It was just timbers, a skeleton, ready to burn.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf spoke what was on many people's minds this morning: could this be arson?

"We know that two recent fires on the Oakland-Emeryville border were confirmed as arson," Schaaf said. "And that is incredibly disconcerting to us."

Some workers in hard hats told us they suspect the motive was the use of non-union labor. Some neighbors believed anarchists set the blaze.

Oakland City Council Member Abel Guillen posted on his Facebook page, "Burning down housing under construction doesn't help make Oakland housing more affordable. It only speeds up displacement of existing residents. #smh."

A spokesman for the developer, Wood Partners of Atlanta, told us the company recognized the dangers and took steps to protect the project.

"Wood Partners had added security on this," said Sam Singer, spokesman for Wood Partners based in Atlanta. "There were several officers 'round the clock. There were security cameras."

RELATED: 4-alarm fire destroys building under construction in Oakland

The Alameda County Joint Arson Task Force is on the case, adding the Alta Waverly to a list of projects under construction that have burned -- several in just the past year.

Fire officials fielded a question about one possible sign of arson. Did the fire have multiple points of origin?

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Acting Oakland Fire Chief Darin White told a news conference, "We have very trained and capable individuals who will look at every piece of evidence they can to ensure that they're leaving no stone unturned to ensure that they understand what the cause of this incident was."

Wood Partners is talking with its investors to determine if they will try to rebuild after this horrible setback.

"It is too soon to say exactly what's going to happen," said Sam Singer. "But we're big believers in Oakland and we're big believers in this neighborhood and the community."

The I-Team also spoke off-camera with several builders who work in the area. They are frustrated that none of those recent suspected arson fires has been solved. No one has been arrested.

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