While no residents were injured in the blaze, which broke out shortly before 3:30 p.m. and spread into the attic, the fire caused a portion of the roof to collapse and plenty of people's possessions were damaged or destroyed, according to Jaime Garrett, a public information officer for the Mountain View Fire Department. Fire, smoke or water damaged 26 apartment units in building, seven of which were red-tagged as uninhabitable, she said.
The fire was reported at 3:26 p.m. at the Dana Garden apartment complex on Dana Street, located near the intersection of highways 85 and 237, Garrett said. It quickly escalated to four alarms, drawing firefighters from Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Moffett Field and the county fire squad.
"This is definitely the biggest (fire) with the most people impacted that we've had" in recent memory," Garrett told the Voice.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the flames.
While some units were only affected by water and smoke damage, others were completely consumed, Garrett said. The roof of a number of the units caved in, she said.
A Red Cross shelter was established at Landels Elementary School for the displaced residents, many of whom returned home to discover firefighters battling the blaze, said Garret.
Most fire victims were able to take shelter with friends and family, she said, but some were provided vouchers for hotels by the Red Cross.
"At the end of the day, we're really lucky that there were no residents injured," Garrett said. "It was a really large fire."
The day after the fire, some of the displaced residents were briefly allowed to enter their apartments with an escort to salvage what items they could.
It was an emotional scene, as people grappled with the loss. Several people who had come to collect their possessions and survey the damage said they didn't want to speak to reporters
"I heard some people say they didn't have renters insurance," Garrett said. "Some said they did. For many of them, it was a really dark day."
Despite the sorrow, Garrett said, most of the people she talked with were not completely despondent. "They were all managing to find something positive throughout the morning."
As of Wednesday, investigators were still working to figure out the cause of the fire, while building inspectors checked the damaged building to determine if it is still structurally sound. No estimate of the value of the damage was available, but building inspectors had red-tagged seven apartments and yellow-tagged 19 more, marking them as uninhabitable, Garrett said. Yellow-tagged units can be entered briefly, but red-tagged apartments are too dangerous to allow entry, she said.
Smoke and mist hung in the air around the Dana Garden complex Monday afternoon as firefighters fought the flames from atop high ladders and from the ground; a local news helicopter hovered above, and cameramen and reporters clamored to get a good shot of the scene.
In all, Garret said, 60 firefighters nine engines, three trucks, two rescue units, four battalion chiefs and four chief officers came to the large complex.
A group of three Dana Garden apartment residents stood behind the police line, watching the firefighters work; all of them declined to be interviewed.
"Not to be rude," one man said, clearly perturbed. "But what's the point? I have no idea what's going on."
"We're scared," the woman next to him said.
Garrett said she had heard many theories circulating about how the fire started.
Nishant Trivedi, a resident of the complex, had one of those theories. He said that he talked to the tenant living in the apartment where the fire started. "As far as I know, there was an electrical problem" that started the fire, Trivedi said.
Garrett could not confirm or deny Trivedi's claim and would not speculate as to the cause of the fire. "I can't confirm anything until the investigator gives me the report," she said.