Woman killed in early morning house fire in Berkeley

Mark Coplan lives just south of the house that caught fire early this morning, killing one woman who was inside. “It was pretty intense, and was out in an amazingly short time. Everyone on this side was concerned that the huge tree in the foreground of these photos would burn as well,” he said

Update, June 22: The woman killed in the house fire at 2919 Lorina Ave. in the early hours of June 21 has been identified as 26-year-old Meredith Ann Joyce of Oakland, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Joyce died of burns and smoke inhalation due to the blaze which investigators believe started in the historic Victorian home’s basement. Two heat detectors and a smoke detector were in the home, but it is not clear whether they were working.

Original story: A young woman was killed and two others were injured when a fire broke out Thursday morning in an old Victorian house at 2919 Lorina Ave.

Firefighters responded to the fire at 2:36 a.m. and found thick smoke and flames coming from the rear area of the house, located near the intersection of Shattuck and Ashby avenues. One of the residents of the home told firefighters that someone was still inside, according to Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong.

Firefighters made their way to a small attic-like space on the third floor where they found an unconscious woman, said Dong.

“Firefighters were told there was still someone inside,” said Dong. “It was difficult to get to where the person was because of the amount of heat and a narrow stairway… She wasn’t breathing. They attempted to resuscitate her but ultimately pronounced the victim at the scene.”

The Fire Department controlled the fatal fire rapidly. This photo was taken at around 3:20 a.m. Photo: Keilou

The woman who died was young and was one of eight people staying in the house, he said. Five were residents and three were visitors. Two others were treated for burns and smoke inhalation.

The Red Cross came to the house and is helping with relocation efforts, said Dong.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Dong did not know if there were smoke detectors in the house.

A view of 2919 Lorina Avenue before the fire. Photo: Google Street View

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  • PragmaticProgressive

    Very sad. Was the attic being used as a bedroom? If so, did it have the required egress?

  • Anonymous

    Let’s hope it’s not another young woman from India living in a substandard habitation under a form of duress…

  • Kamarie

    How very sad!  Everyone, please take this as a reminder to check the batteries in your smoke alarms, just in case.  

  • Daniella Thompson

    2919 Lorina Street is the Josiah J. Rose House (1891), a City of Berkeley Landmark. 

  • Angi X

    This is so tragic and sad.  My heart goes out to the woman’s family.  I lived in that house for many years, and the owner was diligent about smoke detectors, fire-escape ladders from the third floor, and fire extinguishers.  The staircase from the third floor was narrow – typical of a Victorian of it’s age – but I’m quite sure it met code. You can tell by looking at the front of it that it was well maintained… he took great pride in that house, and I’m sure he continued to.  This was a tragic accident, but it was an accident.  Don’t assume it was due to a sub-standard home.

  • Alan Tobey

    A little educational detail about what the Red Cross does in these circumstances (I’m a volunteer Disaster Action Team leader but wasn’t on-call last night).

    The Red Cross is contacted by local public safety agencies (usually the fire department) whenever residents are displaced from their homes by a fire or other disaster.  A disaster action team of volunteers travels to the scene to provide emergency assistance, which may include overnight housing, funds for replacement food and clothing, help with needed prescription medications, and mental health counseling.  Clients are encouraged to contact the Red Cross’s local family services office in Oakland, where volunteer counselors can often provide further emergency assistance and referrals for longer-term help.

    All Red Cross disaster ssistance is free to the client and is entirely supported by private donations.  Almost all operations are staffed by volunteers, including many management roles.

    To volunteer or donate, visit redcrossbayarea.org     

  • Guest

    Probably a college student

  • Urthlove

    Does anyone know the displaced people?  Perhaps there is something we as a community can do to help?

  • guest

    The neighbors and police who made a valiant effort to run upstairs and save her should be commended. And the firefighters were amazing – they put a huge, intense fire out in an incredibly short time. I watched it happen from my backyard for a few minutes before we were evacuated. My heart goes out to the residents. I hope we can make some gesture of support towards them, and the victim’s friends and family.

  • Lyladevafoley

    Yes I know them all and was with them not two hours before the accident. Thats a really nice thought let me know if you think of something. I would love to help.

  • Guest

    Tragic fire– The fire investigators found the source– cigarette butts pushed through the back deck by the young woman. The blood alcohol was 1.9, beyond drunk and they think this is why she didn’t get out. The owner was underinsured by six figures so, tragic all around.