EMERYVILLE, Calif.- A five-alarm fire that severely damaged an apartment complex construction site and nearby buildings for the second time in Emeryville, California, was determined to be arson. The first fire at the structure occurred on July 6, 2016.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF’s) San Francisco Field Division responded to the second fire at the structure alongside the Alameda County Fire Department and Oakland Fire Department on May 13, 2017. The Alameda County Fire Department requested ATF’s National Response Team (NRT) support as the investigation continued.
A team of 25 veteran special agents deployed to the site. The NRT is composed of special agents who include certified fire investigators, fire protection engineers, chemists, forensic mappers, accelerant detection canine teams and other highly specialized and experienced fire investigators.
ATF’s NRT, ATF’s San Francisco Field Division, the Alameda County Fire Department, Alameda County Fire Investigation Task Force and the Emeryville Police Department began investigating the scene and conducting interviews on May 16, 2017. Special agents and firefighters processed the fire scene in an effort to identify fire patterns, potential ignition sources and potential evidence. Forensic mappers captured photographs of the scene in a panoramic view. Fire protection engineers analyzed the protection systems within the structure. The team conducted over a hundred interviews and reviewed surveillance video.
Surveillance video taken during the time of the fire provided the image of a suspect. The video showed a suspect canvassing the building prior to the fire and then entering into the building. The suspect was wearing a jacket with a hood, carrying a backpack and riding a bicycle.
“After examining all the evidence, ATF has determined the cause of the May 13th fire to be incendiary, meaning that it was intentionally set and is considered an act of arson,” ATF San Francisco Field Division, Special Agent in Charge Jill A. Snyder said. “The results of the first fire were not previously disclosed because that case is still under investigation. Due to the circumstances surrounding these fires, the agencies involved in these cases have decided to release the determination of the first fire. The first fire at San Pablo Avenue was also determined to be arson.”
Fire Chief David Rocha said, “I am thankful for the assistance provided by the City of Oakland during the response and the expert investigation work done by the ATF and DA’s Task Force. We look forward to resolving these fires.”
“The Emeryville Police Department would like to thank those members of our community who have assisted this investigation by providing videos, photographs, and witness statements,” said Captain Oliver Collins, Emeryville Police Department. “We would like to continue to encourage community members to be vigilant and take a proactive role in keeping our community safe by reporting suspicious activity. If you see something, say something.”
ATF is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the 3800 San Pablo Avenue fires. A reward of up to $25,000 is being offered for the July 6, 2016 fire. ATF is also offering a reward of up to $25,000 for the May 13, 2017 fire. Anyone with any information about these crimes should contact ATF at 1-(888)-ATF-Fire (1-888-283-3473) or by visiting www.reportit.com (link is external) or through the mobile “reportit” app, available both on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
Holliday Development is offering an additional reward of up to $50,000 leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible. A reward of up to $25,000 is being offered for the July 6, 2016 fire. Holliday Development is also offering a reward of up to $25,000 for the fire on May 13, 2017. The total reward for the San Pablo Avenue fires is up to $100,000.
ATF is the only federal agency with the responsibility and ability to investigate fires and crimes of arson. Much of its expertise and state-of-the-art equipment is assigned to the National Response Team, which deploys around the country and the world to help investigate large-scale and complex fire and explosives scenes at the request of local agencies. More information on NRT can be found at https://www.atf.gov/explosives/national-response-team.
The Alameda County Fire Department provides all-risk emergency services to the unincorporated areas of Alameda County (excluding Fairview), the cities of San Leandro, Dublin, Newark and Union City and Emeryville, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. With 29 fire stations and 35 companies serving a population of 394,000, the ACFD serves densely populated urban areas, waterways, industrialized centers, extensive urban interface, agricultural and wildland regions. Over 400 personnel and 100 Reserve Firefighters provide a wide variety of services to an ever expanding, dynamic and diverse community of roughly 508 square miles.