Investigators for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District on Wednesday evening were trying to determine the cause of the massive blaze inside a telecommunications warehouse and office building early Wednesday morning on Concord Avenue in Concord.
The four-alarm fire burned fast, bright and intense.
Firefighters received the call at around 12:30 a.m. and spent hours battling the fire at the All Phone Company on the 2300 block of Stanwell Drive near Buchanan Field. They officially decared it extinguished around 11 a.m., but stayed on site to douse any flare-ups.
The building stores and recycles old telecommunications equipment. One nearby business owner said what burned were items that had been piled up inside and around the warehouse.
“A lot of possibly valuable stuff — metal, wood, phone equipment, things piled up out there,” said Cory Nott, who told KTVU he spent the night in his office.
Firefighters could not go inside, fearing the roof would collapse. But for those who work in the area, it was not the fire that was the problem, but the smoke.
People could smell it from miles away. It had the strong scent of burnt plastic.
Down the street at a nearby print shop, office workers wore masks. Some employees went home.
“It was kind of scary at first. But when we found out it wasn’t that bad for our health, it just smelled really bad. It scratched our throats and was burning our eyes,” said Kari Wasson, a receiving clerk at the print shop.
Next door, a dialysis center closed at the urging of the fire department.
“We didn’t want people with an aready compromised health situation to ne anywhere near this smoke., because it was pretty nasty.,” said Capt. Robert Marshall of the Contra Costa County Fire Prevention District.
Because of the smoke, the Contra Costa County Health Department issued an advisory recommending that those with breathing problems should stay indoors. The advisory was lifted around at 11 a.m.
Fire investigators said they don’t know yet how the fire started.
Officials say the owner of the All Phone Company had once owned the bulding, but the now destroyed structure has recently gone through foreclosure.
Because the fire ravaged building is so large, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been asked to assist in the investigation.