OAKLAND -- A spectacular fire early Wednesday, possibly started by squatters, left a three-story West Oakland Victorian duplex almost completely destroyed, authorities said.
Although the second and third floors of the building in the 2800 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way were boarded up, a man who told authorities he had permission to be living on the first floor escaped injury.
The fire erupted about 4:14 a.m. in the second floor of the building, Batallion Fire Chief Robert Lipp said. He said the cause has not yet been determined, but did say authorities believe people were living on the floor, apparently without permission.
Fire investigator Maria Sabatini said "We have reports from neighbors that people have been squatting inside. It's also possible the building may not have been secured, and was open to transients or squatters."
Flames were leaping from the building when the first of 23 firefighters arrived. Some firefighters entered the burning building to fight the blaze. But Lipp said it soon got too dangerous for the firefighters to remain inside and they were brought out to continue the fight.
The fire climbed from the second to the third floor and eventually the attic and roof before it was finally controlled within an hour. No firefighters were injured and there was no damage to businesses on each side of the duplex.
Lipp said the building was "left a skeleton" and uninhabitable. He estimated damage to be