Update: Berkeley hills fire ‘under control’ as of 2 p.m.

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The three-story house that caught fire in the late morning of Feb. 6 is in the 1100 block of Keith Ave. Photo: Kelly Walter

Update, 9:09 p.m. Firefighters say a portable heater caused the residential fire on Keith Avenue. Read about it on Berkeleyside.

Update, 2:10 p.m. According to emergency scanner traffic, the incident was determined to be under control as of just after 2 p.m. Berkeleyside will update this post as more information becomes available.

Original post, 12:42 p.m. Berkeley Fire crews are working to put out a fire in a north Berkeley home in the hills that began just before noon, authorities said.

Firefighters responded to the 1100 block of Keith Avenue at 11:47 a.m. for a report of a structure fire, said Interim Fire Chief Gil Dong.

The smoke plume from a Berkeley home on fire on Keith Avenue. Photo: Max Webster

The smoke plume from a home on fire on Keith Ave. Photo: John Russell

Crews found a three-story home on fire when they arrived, said Dong, with heavy fire coming from the second and third floors.

He said no injuries had been reported, as of about 12:30 p.m.

No cause has been determined, as firefighters are still engaged in knocking down the blaze, he said.

A thick black cloud of billowing smoke could be seen from many vantage points around Berkeley.

Fire photo

Berkeley interim Fire Chief Gil Dong said crews were battling heavy fire coming from the second and third floors. Photo: Robert Mathews

The Keith Avenue fire seen from a jet over the Bay, around 12:20 today. Photo: Daniel Cullen

The Keith Avenue fire seen from a jet over the Bay, around 12:20 today. Photo: Daniel Cullen

The following photographs were shared with Berkeleyside by K. Lawson. We always appreciate reader photo submissions via email at tips@berkeleyside.com.

Keith Avenue fire, Feb. 6, 2013. Photo: K. Lawson

Keith Avenue fire, Feb. 6, 2013. Photo: K. Lawson

Keith Avenue fire, Feb. 6, 2013. Photo: K. Lawson

Keith Avenue fire, Feb. 6, 2013. Photo: K. Lawson

Keith Avenue fire, Feb. 6, 2013. Photo: K. Lawson Keith Avenue fire, Feb. 6, 2013. Photo: K. Lawson Keith Avenue fire, Feb. 6, 2013. Photo: K. Lawson

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  • zorg

    Trees very overgrown on Keith. I am sure that will not help

  • Elp

    Haven’t there been other Fires on Keith in the last couple of years?

  • Terrance

    what is the house number?

  • Mappy

    Looks like 1177 Keith Avenue http://goo.gl/maps/tiBST

  • Robert Mathews

    It’s at 1177 Keith, the house immediately to the east of where the “Lower Covert Path” meets Keith.

  • Terrance

    Interesting. Looks like the resident runs a decorative painting service.
    Heidi Tarver Decorative Painting


  • aperson

    As of 1:45, the fire is now out, with only a few smoldering embers left.

    The top floor of the house is basically gone, a total loss, and the roof partly collapsed.

    The ground floor didn’t seem to have much fire damage at all, but I’m sure it’s pretty much destroyed inside now from water damage anyway.

    And yes, it seems to be at 1177 Keith — at the intersection of Keith and Covert Path. It’s the house whose driveway you walk next to as you climb Covert Path from Keith up to Cragmont.

    No information about the cause yet, though there was a rumor amongst the people watching that it was started by a heater. At the scene we didn’t see any evidence or discussion or injuries or victims, so I hope everyone’s OK at least.

    We found embers (still hot) on Cragmont, several hundred yards from the fire. Lucky this happened in the winter — if this had happened on a hot windy day in October, it could have spread to the neighborhood.

  • jimj

    There was a house fire about 4 years ago across the street and 4 houses down. That one killed one and destroyed the home. The property with the home on fire is well manicured, but there are a lot of large old trees on keith in general.

  • emraguso

    Thanks for the update!

  • Mrdrew3782

    I am glad the fire crews are able to get such a remote looking home. With the streets being so narrow and curvy. With the amount of foliage it looks like it could have been much worse. Glad no one was hurt.

  • sensa

    Fire was under control as of 1:40p

  • Bill N

    Good, though scary, photos! Those Berkeleyside readers came through on this one!

  • Mrdrew3782

    WOW! That picture from the jet is awesome. We live in a very photogenic city.

  • sandy friedland

    This house is/was an architectural gem, designed by John Hudson Thomas.

  • Mbfarrel

    “if this had happened on a hot windy day in October, it could have spread to the neighborhood.”
    It will.

  • batardo
  • concerned one

    that’s terrible if it is the Tarver’s home, it is very sad to lose one’s own art works as well as home!

  • It was their house. I live right above them. So glad that Rollie and Heidi were unhurt.

  • This is *right* below my home. When my father called me at school to tell me I was just in shock. It’s so terrible for the Tarvers, but I am so grateful that it was a calm day in the winter. With all the trees and dross, the whole neighborhood might have gone up.

  • I think it was.. 3 years ago, or four, but the house of an elderly man burned down on Keith, and he died. It was terrible.

  • Heidi R.

    Yes, that was Richard, a mentally disabled man who worked at Safeway as a bagger, for years. Very very sad.

  • Hilldah

    Kudos to the Berkeley Fire Dept.

  • emraguso

    We just added some new photographs via reader K. Lawson.

  • Pdweiler

    I’m so grateful for this city’s fire department and for our collective commitment to it!

  • guest

    A house fire, fortunately quickly contained and controlled.
    Looking at the top photograph, and reading the story- the main takeaway of course is not that houses occasionally burn for various reasons ( this one within or close to the line of the ’23 fire) – but looking at the large trees- while admitting that the view in the photo makes it hard to judge canopy cover-there is cause for concern. If this had occurred after a dry summer, and during one of those periods of 2-3 hot, dry and windy days, the result could have proved much worse.

    North Berkeley is likely in need of some more consistent and more effective fire prevention strategy and implementation.

  • Tom

    Something needs to be done about all the brush and overgrown and unmanaged trees in the hills. The Fire Department needs to give warnings or citations to the homeowners. The City needs to act. They pose a potential fire hazard that could cause lives and homes to be destroyed.

  • Peggy

    No, I know the people in that house (Yes it is designed by John Hudson Thomas.) They are not the Tarvers.

  • emraguso

    We’ve posted an update about the apparent cause of the fire and the damage estimate:

  • Truth Sayer

    I read many comment below placing blame on trees and or underbrush. The fact is, this fire was Easly prevented by not using these cheap unsafe space heaters. These space heaters cause more fires than gas or electrical furnaces. Most often, most do not have a auto shutoff if tipped over; most use poorly insulated and/ or too small wiring; home owners often use extension cords, when they should never be used; the thermostats are most often a poorly designed import that have a high failure rate; and many are not rated by Underwritters Lab or other accredited firm (UL). Note also, that many of these heaters have been sold in the US with the Alledged “UL”certification from overseas, but they are not. As a safety professional, I proposed that thes units be banned from the workplace, and the CO agreeded. What is really sad is that Berkeley has a million standards and codes, but unless I missed it, thay don’t have one for portable space heaters.

  • Amyanahata

    We live so close that our bedroom window looks down on the remains. Sadly we don’t know the family and are heartbroken. If you hear of any sort of helping opportunity, please respond to my post.

  • Amyanahata

    Peggy, we live at the top of Covert path and look down on the house. Have you heard of any helping opportunities for the family? Sadly we don’t know them.

  • bahaha

    JHT wasn’t working with brown shingles in the 20’s, why do you think it was one of his?

  • BerkeleyResident

    The Fire Department does this. Exactly as you have written it.

  • Mbfarrel

    Not very well, and the Council makes no moves to ensure that vegetation is controlled.