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About 20 people flee Oakland warehouse fire before roof collapse

About 20 people flee Oakland warehouse fire before roof collapse
Firefighters work to put out a fire in an Oakland warehouse. (Oakland Fire Department)

Everyone inside an Oakland warehouse — about 20 people — were evacuated from the building as a fire engulfed its second floor, causing the roof to collapse Monday morning, officials said.

The fire was reported about 8:30 a.m. near East 12th Street and 19th Avenue, Oakland fire officials said. Firefighters were taking a defensive approach to fighting the fire, which sent a gigantic plume of black smoke into the air visible from across the San Francisco Bay.

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The warehouse, which appears to belong to American Emperor LLC, a company that specializes in plumbing, electrical and building supplies, was open when the fire started. All employees were able to evacuate safely, with assistance from the Oakland Police Department, said Deputy Chief Melinda Drayton, a spokeswoman for the Oakland Fire Department.

Though an official cause hasn’t been determined, firefighters believe the fire started with a pile of debris that was in flames in an alley by the warehouse called Solano Way, Drayton said. The flames could have entered an open window of the warehouse and spread. It’s unclear why the pile of debris was on fire.

By about 10:30 a.m., most of the flames were out but firefighters were still spraying water on hot spots in the building’s second floor. “It’s going to be a while” before the fire is completely under control, Drayton said.

The fire blazed as a BART train ran alongside the warehouse and riders took videos and photographs of the spectacle. Video footage shows an “I love my Oakland” sign painted on the side of the burning building.

The Chronicle reported that police were evacuating the area near 1900 East 12th street.

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