April 13, 2024

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Fire on Broadway and 19th closes X street in Sacramento

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Sacramento resident Kevin Stockdale eagerly anticipated an affordable housing and retail complex’s completion that he hoped would revitalize the Broadway corridor and address the area’s public safety concerns.

But on Tuesday morning, the 60-year-old shook his head as he observed charred wooden remains at 19th and X streets after a massive conflagration gutted a portion of the On Broadway Apartments project. The $94 million development was expected to earmark 25% of units for homeless residents, according to The Sacramento Bee’s previous reporting, some of whom live under freeway overpasses next door.

If he had known about the fire, Stockdale said: “I would have gotten up and tried to put it out myself. It’s terrible.”

An aerial view from a drone shows the destruction to a five-story building under construction on 19th and X streets in Sacramento following a fire on Tuesday, March, 26, 2024. The three-alarm fire destroyed one of two affordable apartment complexes being built in the Broadway corridor.
An aerial view from a drone shows the destruction to a five-story building under construction on 19th and X streets in Sacramento following a fire on Tuesday, March, 26, 2024. The three-alarm fire destroyed one of two affordable apartment complexes being built in the Broadway corridor. Hector Amezcua [email protected]

Smoke plumes marred the capital city’s skyline after Sacramento firefighters battled the three-alarm fire for hours. The intense heat warped signal lights affixed to a railroad crossing just west of the 140-unit development.

Firefighters had completed a medical aid call when they noticed smoke filling the area just before 1 a.m., the Sacramento Fire Department said. It was one of two five-story buildings on 19th Street, in between X Street and Broadway, that was heavily engulfed in flames.

There were no injuries and the cause of the fire is under investigation, firefighters said.

The Sacramento Fire Department battled a massive blaze on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, on Broadway and 19th Street, causing road closures. The investigation into the fire is underway.
The Sacramento Fire Department battled a massive blaze on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, on Broadway and 19th Street, causing road closures. The investigation into the fire is underway. Sacramento Fire Department

Video provided by Sacramento firefighters showed personnel spraying water from ladder trucks to subdue the conflagration as the bare wooden skeleton continued to fall amid heavy flames.

Capt. Justin Sylvia, a spokesman with Fire Department, said more than 100 firefighters fought licking flames ravaging exposed wooden stick frames. First responders didn’t enter the building because of safety threats, leading them to jet water from above the structure, he said.

Firefighters asked PG&E and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District to shut down gas and power lines, according to archived radio dispatches.

The blaze’s intensity prompted Sacramento police to shutter X Street, between 18th and 20th streets, for several hours.

Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela, who represents that area, said online she was gutted to hear about the conflagration and her office stands ready to help get the project back on track after the devastating setback.

“The On Broadway Apartments is a critical project for the Broadway corridor and our affordable housing goals,” she wrote on social media.

The aftermath: ‘Significant’ damage to building, developer says

A hive of activity buzzed around the blackened structure on Tuesday morning. Water dripped from darkened husks as hazy smoke wafted through surrounding homes and businesses about eight hours since the fire’s start.

Sacramento firefighters were still extinguishing hot spots by 10 a.m. The incident proves challenging because there’s “void spaces” that must be flushed out, Sylvia said.

“We will be out here for quite some time,” Sylvia said, to make sure the blaze is completely tamped down.

SMUD crews worked on restoring power lines behind the blackened structure. Workers from Brown Construction, contracted to build the complex, swept debris lining roads.

San Rafael-based developer EAH Housing planned to turn a lot at the northeast corner of 19th and Broadway into two structures, each a five-story mix of retail and affordable housing units. Construction had begun by July 2023, and was expected to last for 22 months, an EAH spokesperson said previously.

The On Broadway Apartments were set to be a 165,000-square-foot complex that would include 75 single-bedroom units, 25 two-bedroom apartments and 50 three-bedroom units. It would also have both a community center, a “learning center” and 111 long-term bicycle parking stalls, according to The Bee’s previous reporting.

The On Broadway apartments will have 140 affordable housing units at the corner of 19th Street and Broadway in Sacramento.
The On Broadway apartments will have 140 affordable housing units at the corner of 19th Street and Broadway in Sacramento. EAH Housing, LPAS Architecture + Design

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said online he was disappointed the fire caused delays for the apartments, which are intended to provide badly needed affordable housing and increased economic vitality to the area.

“Our city will be reaching out to EAH Housing to do what we can to support efforts to clean up and resume construction on this housing for the most needy Sacramentans,” he said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

EAH Housing, in an emailed statement, vowed to restart construction as soon as possible after a “significant” portion of the property was affected.

“We will share additional details on the updated construction timeline in the coming days and weeks,” the statement said, while noting the company was deeply saddened by the loss.

Brown Construction said in a statement that it’s waiting to learn of the fire’s cause before determining the next steps forward.

A survey of damage Tuesday morning showed the southern building that corners Broadway appeared undamaged.

The site was formerly a single-structure office building that had been vacant for years before it was demolished.

Stockdale, who lives nearby, had hoped the apartment complex would bring restaurants and provide a bustling, lively corner on the corridor. Now, the revitalization appears to be postponed.

“This is just devastating to me,” he said.

Construction personnel look over the ruins of a five-story housing complex under construction on 19th Street between Broadway and X Street in Sacramento on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. The building was damaged by a three-alarm fire overnight.
Construction personnel look over the ruins of a five-story housing complex under construction on 19th Street between Broadway and X Street in Sacramento on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. The building was damaged by a three-alarm fire overnight. Ishani Desai [email protected]

An aerial view from a drone shows the destruction to a five-story building under construction on 19th and X streets in Sacramento following a fire on Tuesday, March, 26, 2024. The three-alarm fire destroyed one of two affordable apartment complexes being built in the Broadway corridor.
An aerial view from a drone shows the destruction to a five-story building under construction on 19th and X streets in Sacramento following a fire on Tuesday, March, 26, 2024. The three-alarm fire destroyed one of two affordable apartment complexes being built in the Broadway corridor. Hector Amezcua [email protected]

The Bee’s Hector Amezcua contributed to this story.

This story was originally published March 26, 2024, 8:17 AM.

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Profile Image of Ishani Desai

Ishani Desai is a breaking news reporter for The Sacramento Bee. She previously covered crime and courts for The Bakersfield Californian.


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