News

Seagull flies into power lines, fire and evacuation follow

BFD works on the fire at 1113 Delaware Street at around 8:40am that broke out on the morning of Oct. 2, 2012. Photo: David Yee

UPDATE 10:05 am: A PG&E spokeswoman said a seagull flying into two power lines caused a power outage. Tamar Sarkissian said she could not comment whether that caused the fire. Two customers are without power.

Original story: Berkeley residents were evacuated in one block of Delaware Street this morning due to the danger of power lines being down in front of a home that caught fire.

The fire was at 1113 Delaware Street in west Berkeley and, according to Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong, it is not clear yet whether the power lines fell as a result of the fire or vice versa.

The fire department received a call at 8:14 am and, once they were on scene, called out PG&E in order to secure the downed power lines. Berkeley Police were also brought in to evacuate local residents. There were no injuries to either residents or firefighters, and the cause of the fire is not known, Dong said.

At 9:00 am, crews were still on scene doing salvage and overhaul work.

Update, 10:14 am: NM Sanchez, who said he lives one block away from the scene, reported on Twitter that he felt two surges just before the incident, several minutes apart. “Lights dimmed, house shook. Eerie,” he wrote. Meanwhile, writing in our Comments at 9:26am, Augustus said: “I am about a block away and there was a very loud whirring noise and explosion of sorts and the lights went out for a second.  The smoke was just rising as I went outside to see what was going on. It looked as if the back of the Popeye’s was on fire, with orange-white smoke going straight up. The whirring noise was like 1000 blenders all going on at once. Now it just stinks, but at least the helicopters are no longer making more noise.”

We will continue to report the story as it develops.

The home at 1113 Delaware Street fronted by power lines in a Google Street View image

N.B.: The headline on this story was changed at 10:17am to reflect developing news.

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/IHX74JQ45MVHCFRH4OE36PSEU4 Augustus

    I am about a block away and there was a very loud whirring noise and explosion of sorts and the lights went out for a second.  The smoke was just rising as I went outside to see what was going on.  It looked as if the back of the Popeye’s was on fire, with orange-white smoke going straight up.

    The whirring noise was like 1000 blenders all going on at once.

    Now it just stinks, but at least the helicopters are no longer making more noise.

  • The Sharkey

    I’m surprised the smoke was so heavy along the ground all the way into my area North of Sacramento.
    From all the smoke I would have guessed the fire was near McGee and Hearst.

  • Cellob2

    I live across the street and a few doors down from the house that caught fire.  There was no evacuation though there sure were a lot of police cars, fire trucks, meter maids, and helicopters.  Glad they were there to handle whatever might have happened.  I was told that an electrical transformer fell on the house that caught fire. 

  • Mike Pavone

     I live near the corner of Hearst and 10th and also heard a loud noise. Sounded like an electrical arc. This was right around 8:13 as I was exiting my apartment. Right after it stopped an alarm went off at a nearby store (my guess is that a burglar alarm got triggered by the power disruption). A few minutes later a bunch of fire and police vehicles rushed down San Pablo.

  • David D.

    I live about 2 blocks away and heard the helicopter. Imagine my surprise when I went outside around 9:00 and found my neighborhood heavy with smoke… Is PG&E sure that this was caused by a seagull? After all, the block in question was affected by last night’s big outage. Seagulls don’t normally fry themselves on power lines, so it makes more “sense” that something happened as a result of last night’s issues.

  • Biker 94703

    Well that sure isn’t “a grass fire” as reported on SFGate.  Anyone close enough to see if there are still 2 transformers on that pole?  Or did the power line to the purple house fall onto 1113?

  • Renovate

    I used to live on Delaware – there are so many exposed electrical wires on that street I am actually surprised something like this hasn’t happened earlier. Seagull story is suspicious.

  • Doug

    Actually it wasn’t a seagull, it was a Double Crested Cormorant, whose internal sonar was thrown akilter by the radar from Blue Angels practice. Sue the Navy!

  • Garthwebber

    Here is the bird that got electrocuted. He shorted out the lines causing one of them to break and drop to the ground starting the fire.

  • The Sharkey

    It seems completely unbelievable to me that our electrical infrastructure in Berkeley is so fragile that a seagull hitting a telephone wire can do this kind of damage.

  • Renovate

    Poor thing.

  • Rachel Anderson

    Interesting.  There was a grass fire on Mendocino at 3:00 a.m. the other night.  Maybe confusion?

  • http://www.omnivorousfox.com/ Mfox327

    Birds stand on wires all the time and don’t get electrocuted. I don’t get it. Can anybody explain?

  • http://www.caviarcommunism.us/ West Bezerkeley

    Yet another example of the fragility of the 20th century infrastructure the utility companies continue to hang onto. Visiting my in-laws in Europe you don’t see a web of utility wires coming off of poles because the infrastructure is underground. It puts the poles out of the way of out of control cars, wires are out of the way of birds & falling tree limbs…

    Maybe by 2050 the US live up to the claim of being a developed country for some of the most basic of all services (electricity and telephone…I’m not holding my breath though).

  • The Sharkey

    Perhaps the seagull touched a ground and an electrical wire at the same time, or some vulnerable part of a transformer? It’s possible, but unlikely.

    http://www.word-detective.com/howcome/birdsonwires.html

  • guest

    My neighborhood (about 225 houses and one business) is undergoing under-grounding right now.  We began this process long enough ago that our Underground Utility District already was formed prior to the Hills fire in 1991.  Yes, this means that under the crack leadership of the City of Berkeley and PG&E (with guest interference and stalling by AT&T and Comcast,) our project has taken well over 20 years and it’s not done yet.  At this rate, very few additional homes will be underground by 2050.  In fact, at the rate of 20 years to under-ground 225 homes, there will be AT MOST 500-600 more homes with under-ground utilities by 2050.  Actually, my understanding is that Berkeley has decided to stop doing these projects in neighborhoods.

    Raise your hand if you think this will be a topic of discussion among candidates for Mayor as the election approaches.

  • http://www.caviarcommunism.us/ West Bezerkeley

     Interesting data on municipal “excellence”

    Well, like countless other issues, I guess we’ll kick this can down the road and let future generations suffer with it.

  • lindaperr

    The limited public funding for the process for undergrounding utilities comes from PG&E shareholder profits and the rules for where and when the money is spent come from the CPUC (and have been changed since the undergrounding district mentioned above was formed, pre 10/91). It would be very nice to get rid of more overhead lines but the City of Berkeley is not really in a position of power over the matter (so to speak).