Fire breaks out at abandoned Oakland library with history of problems

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ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Fire breaks out at abandoned Oakland library with history of problems
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A fire broke out just before 2 p.m. on Friday at an abandoned library at the corner of East 15th Street and Miller Avenue in Oakland.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Firefighters would never admit it publicly, but there may be no kind of blaze more frustrating that one in a building where they have been less than a year before, where one of their own suffered injuries.

"We just come back and do our job. Treat it like any other fire," said Oakland Fire Department Battalion Chief Dino Torres.

The abandoned, almost century-old library in the 1400 block of Miller Avenue lit up from the inside around 2 p.m. Friday.

It burned so hot that firefighters took what they call a defensive stance. "It was abandoned. Windows boarded up," Torres said.

It may not have been empty, however. Last April, the Oakland Fire Department blamed squatters for the trouble here.

On Friday, Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, who lives two blocks away, told reporters that he personally saw at least a dozen people living inside.

"From what I hear, this morning there was a big fight. A physical fight," he said. "One group pushed the other out. And the other group came back and set the fire."

There had been hope of bringing this historic building back to life, but it has been formally closed since the 1970's with no money for renovation. Since then, problems here have been chronic.

"We keep sealing the property," said Gallo. "Police were here on a daily basis after the last fire. They board it up, and people keep breaking in."

With the roof collapsed, boarding up the building would be next-to-impossible now.

Now, renovation is more unlikely than ever for a piece of history with nothing but trouble in its old age.