Massive fire at Redwood City affordable housing development

Fire crews on Monday were sent to fight a massive, eight-alarm fire in Redwood City that ripped through a $155 million- affordable housing development under construction, dashing hopes that it would be rebuilt any time soon. 

Fire crews in Menlo Park and Redwood City were dispatched at 10:15 a.m. to a blaze at 2700 block of Middlefield Road, a building in a densely packed neighborhood south of a Costco and west of a Target. 

Menlo Park Fire Protection Chief Mark Lorenzen said there were no injuries from the blaze, but the building looks to be a "total loss." 

Video on Citizen App showed smoke pouring out of the windows and crews blasting the flames with hoses. Fire officials said the fire was contained to the structure of origin around 3 p.m.

Lorenzen said that the fire started with some insulation on the 5th floor of the building and that the wind was proving to be a firefighting challenge. 

"It's just a tinder box," Lorenzen said. 

Last summer, San Mateo County boasted that construction was underway on this site – a 179-unit affordable housing project known as Middlefield Junction in North Fair Oaks, which used to be a recycling facility. 

San Mateo County Supervisor President Warren Slocum said he has been working on this project for 10 years. It was supposed to be completed next year.

The fire puts the building back at square No. 1. 

"It's sickening," Slocum said on Monday, with obvious disappointment in his voice. "It's a tragedy to see this go up in flames. I'm just heartbroken about this." 

His colleague, Supervisor Dave Canepa, agreed. 

"To see this up in flames is obviously something that is tragic," Canepa said on his way to the scene. "This housing was desperately needed." 

Canepa said that the development was also supposed to include childcare and community space, as well as one, two, and three-bedroom units. 

The San Mateo County Sheriff issued an order, saying that anyone who lives near Pacific, Calvin and Dumbarton avenues should evacuate immediately. 

Assistant Sheriff Ryan Monaghan said about 50 people were displaced because of burning embers that wafted near their homes. A temporary evacuation site was established at the Red Morton Community Center.

Caltrain also experienced delays since the fire was burning near the tracks. 

The fire brought out 26 fire engines, 7 ladder trucks and 10 mutual aid trucks. Fire officials said that as of 3 p.m. the fire was contained to the structure of orgin.

San Mateo County said that the $155 million was funded, in part, with $78 million from the California Housing Accelerator Fund, managed by the state of California’s Department of Housing and Community Development. 

The project was also financed with $30.5 million in loans from San Mateo County and the Housing Authority of San Mateo County, nearly $13 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and $6.78 million from the Measure K half-cent sales tax.