Richmond community center fire forces polling place relocation

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Richmond community center fire forces polling place relocation
A two-alarm fire damaged the Booker T. Anderson Community Center on S. 47th Street in Richmond on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. (All photos by Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

The Booker T. Anderson Community Center on S. 47th Street in Richmond was the scene of a two-alarm fire Wednesday that has required the relocation of an election polling site.

About 30 total fire personnel from Richmond and El Cerrito, including RFD Fire Chief Adrian Sheppard, responded to the scene of the fire, which was first reported at 2:46 p.m. Wednesday.

According to RFD Battalion Chief Noah Brownlow, the cause of the fire is still being investigated and damages are still being assessed. No one was injured but the fire was significant enough that the center has been deemed unsafe to be occupied.

A visit by the Standard to the Community Center Friday morning revealed extensive fire damage to the back right corner of the building facing 47th Street, but no visible damage to the front entrance area. A City of Richmond employee indicated he believed the fire largely impacted a children’s computer room.

Staff transporting election polling equipment from the damaged Booker T. Anderson Jr. Community Center to Stege Elementary on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020.

City of Richmond employees on Friday posted notices on the building’s entrances about its unsafe status and also worked to board up windows and entrances.

A separate crew seen loading election equipment onto a white truck indicated they were moving polling booths from the fire-damaged Community Center to Stege Elementary School, 4949 Cypress Ave. in Richmond. The Contra Costa County Elections Office confirmed Friday that the polling place has been moved from the Community Center to Stege Elementary and that anyone who typically uses the Community Center for voting should now vote at the school instead.

The Contra Costa County Elections Office also confirmed that the Community Center was not an early polling place and that no ballots were destroyed in the fire.

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