Oakland Tribune

OAKLAND -- A two-alarm fire early Friday damaged three East Oakland houses and displaced three people, authorities said.

Fewer firefighters were available for the initial response because a nearby station was under a "rolling brownout" that meant a four-firefighter engine crew not available, officials said.

The fire was reported about 2:40 a.m. at the house in the 1200 block of 90th Avenue near A Street.

Battalion Fire Chief Eric Logan said when the first units arrived on the scene the house was fully engulfed in flames and two adults and a child who lived there were already outside.

The fire spread to the eaves of a vacant house on one side and caused some exposure damage to another vacant house on the other side, Logan said.

It took 31 firefighters until about 3:10 a.m. to control the fire. No injuries were reported.

Logan said the family had been using their stove and oven for heat, which might have been a contributing factor to the fire. "But we can't say it was the main cause," he added.

He said the house where the fire started was destroyed and damages were estimated at $450,000. The residents were being assisted by the Red Cross. Damage to the other two houses was at least $300,000, he said.

Officials said a four-firefighter engine at Station 20 at 98th Avenue and International Boulevard about eight blocks away would normally have been among the first units to respond. Because of city-mandated budget savings known as rolling brownouts that have been going on for two years, that company was not available Friday morning. A four-firefighter truck company at the same station was active and did respond to the fire.

Logan said "not having your closest engine company available does make a difference." Having regular staffing, he said, "makes it more efficient and safer for firefighters and residents."

Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.