OAKLAND -- A vacant three-story downtown Victorian house built in 1896 could be demolished after it was badly damaged by fire Wednesday morning for the second time this year, officials said.

The suspicious two-alarm fire at the wooden home at 621 Harrison St., in Chinatown, erupted at 7:14 a.m., spewing flames and thick black smoke from every floor and the roof.

At least 40 firefighters responded to the blaze, using two aerial hoses and ground units to battle the fire.

The fire was controlled at 7:46 a.m. but firefighters were still putting out flare-ups for some time. Officials said firefighters would remain on the scene until 6 p.m. Wednesday in case there were additional flare-ups.

No firefighters were injured and a search of the burned-out house did not locate anyone, officials said.

Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton said because of the severe damage it is doubtful if the point of origin and cause of the fire could ever be determined. Portions of the roof collapsed Wednesday. There was no damage to adjacent homes and businesses.

Although the house had been boarded up after a fire in January that was caused by squatters, it cannot be ruled out that squatters were once again able to get inside the building and caused Wednesday's blaze, authorities said. There is no active utility hookup at the home.

Officials said a structural engineer with the city was meeting with the house's owners about the condition of the property and getting it demolished.


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While firefighters battled the blaze, police blocked off one lane coming from the Posey Tube, on Harrison Street, and Seventh Street was closed to traffic. The closure hampered the commute from East Alameda and motorists were asked to avoid the area.

Staff writer Rick Hurd contributed to this story.