Firefighters use lid to put out kitchen pot fire in Berkeley

Allston Way was closed Monday night between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford  Street for a small kitchen fire. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Allston Way was closed Monday night between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street for a small kitchen fire. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Authorities closed Allston Way in downtown Berkeley on Monday night for about 45 minutes after a report of a fire in a five-story building across from the popular Cancun Taqueria restaurant.

Berkeley Fire Department Battalion Chief Bill Kehoe said the call about the fire, in a second-floor unit at 2161 Allston, came in at about 5:40 p.m. Kehoe, a ladder truck, four engines and a paramedic unit were dispatched to investigate.

Firefighters found the fire in a pot of oil on the stove — with flames rising 10-12 inches above the rim — in the second-floor unit.

“They extinguished it by placing the lid on it,” Kehoe said Monday evening, outside 2161 Allston. The fire caused damage to a nearby microwave, causing it to melt partially.

There was also some smoke damage inside the unit, and minor damage to a door in another unit in the apartment building where fire crews initially had been told the fire was located.

Berkeley police blocked traffic at both ends of Allston during the fire investigation. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Berkeley police blocked traffic at both ends of Allston during the fire investigation. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Kehoe said firefighters opened up doors in the stairwells and set up fans to clear out the smoke in the building, which had been evacuated during the incident.

As of about 6:25 p.m., a ladder truck and at least two fire engines were still parked outside the building on Allston, but most left within several minutes, and authorities reopened the road to through-traffic at about that time.

No one was hurt during the incident.

According to Oksana Yurovsky via Twitter, the Berkeley Fire Department was again dispatched to the block just before 10 p.m., several hours after the initial incident, when someone pulled the fire alarm on the third floor of the apartment building. The Berkeley Fire Department told her that “All units will be searched if [it] happens again.”

This story was updated at 11 p.m. to reflect the second fire alarm.

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  • sumikoska

    Hah! That’s my car blocked in, in front of Cancun. I was wondering what was going on. That’s right in front of my mom’s place. When we saw that the car was blocked we went to run some errands, came back, and it was still blocked so I waited in the car another 10 minutes or so. Glad no one was hurt.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    The most remarkable thing is that you found a parking place in front of Cancun.

  • fran haselsteiner

    Grease fire: Pour on the baking soda.

  • Bob

    This story symbolizes the lack of common sense and the idiotic dependence upon government to handle everything in life. Is this peculiar to Berkeley, to all leftist enclaves or to the whole country?

  • The_Sharkey

    The whole country, sadly. It just appears compounded in places like the Bay Area that have higher population density than the rest of the country.

  • The_Sharkey

    A ladder truck and four fire engines for a small kitchen fire?

    Better safe than sorry I guess, but why so much overkill in the response? Are they trying to pad response figures or something?

  • Tim Ereneta

    You would need a lot of baking soda to extinguish a fire in a pot of oil. And you’d have to take care that you weren’t splashing oil out of the pot. The lid solution works very well.

  • Bill N

    Wait till you have a fire and they send one guy with an extinguisher.

  • The_Sharkey

    Sadly, in this case, that would have been more than enough. :-/

  • sumikoska

    That block of Berkeley is literally across the street from Cal Berkeley and close to UC Berkeley: most of the people who live there are out-of-state college students who use the apartments like dorms while they are in school. It could symbolize what happens when 19 year olds living away from their parents for the first time attempt to cook for themselves

  • Charles_Siegel

    I would imagine that the sequence of events was this:
    – Someone sees smoke coming out of the window and reports a fire.

    – The fire department does not know whether the smoke is the result of a burning pot on the stove or whether the result of a fire that could spread rapidly. It acts prudently by sending enough fire trucks to handle the worst case.

    – Those with twenty-twenty hindsight say that they should not have sent so many trucks to handle such a small fire.

  • Mbfarrel

    It seems the farther from the farm you are, the less in touch you are with the nuts and bolts of the physical world. Tradesmen (and women) excepted.

  • Mbfarrel

    “A ladder truck and four fire engines for a small kitchen fire?”
    For a fire in a five story apartment building. Common sense I’d say.

  • gwumpycat

    I would imagine that the person who was cooking when they started a fire would be the ones who called the fire department.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Calling the fire department when you see a fire! How could anybody be so idiotically dependent on government? They must be radical leftists!

    Seriously, the real issue seems to be whether the fire department was called by the person who started the fire (as gwumpy says) or by someone who saw smoke coming out of that apartment’s window or door. The article doesn’t tell us which it was.

    If it was the person who started the fire, then it did show dependence to call the fire dept rather than just putting the lid on the pan and putting out the fire yourself.

    If it was someone outside the apartment who saw smoke, then it was a prudent response by all concerned.

    I assumed it was someone who saw smoke, because I figured no one would call the fire department rather than just putting out a tiny fire in his or her own kitchen. But you never can tell.

  • iicisco

    Overkill to the average ignorant civilian who knows nothing about the fire service. The response received is the initial response for any non-confirmed structure fire. Each apparatus plays a specific role. Each company has an assigned role. The first due engine is the fire tac group or investigation group if nothing is showing from the street. The next due will lay a water supply from a hydrant if not tagged by the first engine. The aerial is used for search and rescue and/or ventilation. The Medic(which nobody mentioned) secures utilities and remains a medical group for any victims on scene. The BC(Battalion Chief) is the incident commander, although an engine company may take on the role until one arrives on scene.

  • The_Sharkey

    So why did they send a ladder truck and four engines to this fire, but a single engine to the house fire mentioned in this story, where there were reports of people trapped inside a burning building?

    http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/06/25/fire-on-1400-block-of-curtis-st-damages-70-of-house-interior/#disqus_thread

  • The_Sharkey

    I dunno. Seems like a ladder truck and two engines would have sufficed.
    The four fire engines part just seems like a bit much.

  • iicisco

    Sir, a Single Alarm was sent not a Single Company!

  • guest

    That’s because hindsight is 20/20.