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Massive fire in Oakland forces hundreds to evacuate

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Firefighters contained a massive four-alarm fire that erupted early Friday morning at a large apartment complex under construction near Oakland's Lake Merritt, CBS San Francisco reports

The fire broke out just before 5 a.m. and grew as the blaze, which was fueled by building construction materials, spread quickly.

Small explosions were heard as the flames moved through the structure. A large crane dangled over the blaze, threatening to possibly collapse. It was whirling out of control through the flames, elevating the concerns of firefighters.  

Firefighters attacked the blaze using a "surround and drown" tactic. They took a defensive approach and poured hundreds of gallons of water on the fire.   

Several hundred residents were evacuated from nearby buildings. They gathered on the street to watch firefighters battle the flames. 

Fire crews were also monitoring the rooftops of nearby buildings to make sure the airborne embers did not ignite other fires. Alameda County sent additional units to the scene to help Oakland firefighters monitor local neighborhoods.

The project was under construction as a mixed used building and was nearing completion in early 2018. It stretches across three blocks and designed to host 225 apartments and 2,300 square feet of retail space. The building also included an underground parking garage.

A huge plume of smoke and ash fell over the neighborhood near the blaze. The fire was visible in San Francisco and to commuters on local freeways in the Oakland area.

No injuries were reported. 

Firefighters would not comment on reports that motion sensors located within the project detected some activity before the fire. Security guards were on-duty at the project site. 

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

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