After a West Berkeley blaze, praise for the firefighters

The remains of the warehouse of the Wooden Duck furniture store which was destroyed in a five-alarm fire on Saturday April 12, 2014. Photo: Todd Forbush
The remains of warehouse at 1800-1810 Second St. that was  destroyed in a five-alarm fire Saturday, April 12, 2014. The building held stock from Import Tile and housed Joshua Tree Furniture. The Wooden Duck also lost stock in the blaze but its showroom, on Eastshore Highway, survived largely intact. Photo: Todd Forbush

Eric Gellerman, owner of The Wooden Duck furniture store, says he has nothing but thanks for the firefighters who fought the blaze that engulfed a building on Second Street in West Berkeley on Saturday night.

The store’s warehouse is “a total loss,” he said Sunday. However, The Wooden Duck’s showroom and store, which fronts Eastshore Highway, was saved. Gellerman said it turned out that the wall between the store and the warehouse was 3 to 4 feet thick and held the flames at bay.

“Even the firefighters were amazed,” he said Sunday, while he and others mopped up water at the scene. “Apparently there were three ‘old-timers’ from Fire Station 7 in the Berkeley Hills to whom we owe a debt of gratitude,” he said.

Back of Wooden Duck. Photo- Eric Gellerman
The remains of The Wooden Duck warehouse, which is a “total loss” according to its owner, Eric Gellerman. Photo: Eric Gellerman

Other nearby businesses were not so lucky. The fire destroyed a workshop used by a collective of 20 small artisans owned by Joshua Goldberg, who put together the space in 2005. Goldberg is also the owner of Joshua Tree Furniture, which was also completely gutted by the five-alarm fire.


“We were all there watching our lives go up,” Goldberg said.

Another business using the space, Import Tile Company, also suffered significant losses, though its showroom on Hearst Avenue was not damaged.

The blaze was so large it caused a back-up of traffic on Interstate 80 as rubberneckers slowed to observe the conflagration, and the flames and plume of smoke were visible from around the bay. Berkeley residents downwind of the fire said the smell was almost overwhelming.

Fire inspectors check the site of a five-alarm fire on 2nd Street in Berkeley, on Sunday, April 13, 2014. The fire started April 12 and burned for several hours. Photo: David Yee ©2014
Fire inspectors check the site of a five-alarm fire on Second Street in Berkeley, on Sunday, April 13, 2014. The fire started April 12 and burned for several hours. Photo: David Yee
Back of Wooden Duck-2. Photo- Eric Gellerman
A thick wall that separates The Wooden Duck’s showroom from its factory warehouse helped save the former. The warehouse, shown here, was completely destroyed. Photo: Eric Gellerman

The video below, shared with Berkeleyside by Davoud Kermaninejad, demonstrates just how powerful the fire was:

The Berkeley Fire Department responded to the building at 1802 Second St. at 7:54 p.m., according to Fire Chief Gil Dong. More than 70 firefighters from Berkeley, Alameda County, and other cities battled the blaze.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Inspectors from the Berkeley Fire Department, as well as at least one from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, were on scene Sunday, sifting through the charred remains for clues.

Readers have been asking about the fate of the Cal Memorial bleachers that The Wooden Duck salvaged and is using to make furniture. Gellerman told Berkeleyside that the majority of it was stored off-site and is safe. Some of the Cal wood was [lost] unfortunately,” he said. “[But] most of it is stored in a yard in Oakland and all the completed table tops were down at our warehouse next to Costco in Richmond at the time of the fire so it was safe.”

Gellerman added today that the business does not appear to have insurance coverage for loss of contents in the warehouse.

The Wooden Duck reopened for business today, Monday.

What remains of the Wooden Duck warehouse, as seen from above. Photo: Todd Forbush
What remains of The Wooden Duck warehouse, as seen from above. Photo: Todd Forbush
An inspector surveys the damage at The Wooden Duck warehouse. Photo: Todd Forbush
An inspector surveys the damage at The Wooden Duck warehouse. Photo: Todd Forbush
Looking down from the roof of The Wooden Duck Warehouse. Photo: Todd Forbush
Looking down from the roof of The Wooden Duck Warehouse. Photo: Todd Forbush

This story was updated with new information after publication.

Related:
West Berkeley fire causes $5 million in damage, destroys 20 artisan businesses (04.13.14)
Berkeley businesses damaged in 5-alarm warehouse fire (04.12.14)
Old Cal Memorial Stadium for sale, one bleacher at a time (06.27.12)

Get the latest Berkeley news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing. And make sure to bookmark Berkeleyside’s pages on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t need an account on those sites to view important information.