Police: West Berkeley fire caused by hashish operation

One man was taken to the hospital for treatment after a fire in West Berkeley on Tuesday night. Photo: Jef Poskanzer
One man was taken to the hospital for treatment after a fire in West Berkeley on Tuesday night. Photo: Jef Poskanzer

A small fire at a West Berkeley business on Tuesday evening, which sent one man to a burn center for treatment, appears to have been caused by a hashish production operation, police said Wednesday.

Very little information was available from authorities, but Officer Jennifer Coats, Berkeley Police spokeswoman, said via email that officers responding to the fire Tuesday discovered an illegal marijuana grow and hashish production operation on-site.

The fire was reported at about 6:45 p.m., and came in as a report of flames showing from a business in the 800 block of Gilman, which turned out to be the Royal Robbins Clothing store at 841 Gilman, authorities said Tuesday. Firefighters who responded found smoke and embers only, along with a man who had been burned severely enough to need treatment from the Bothin Burn Center at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco.

Coats said Wednesday that fuel used during the “hashish conversion process” may have ignited the fire, which caused the man’s injuries. (Hashish, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the concentrated resin from the flowering tops of female hemp plants.” It can be made in a variety of ways.)


She said a criminal investigation is on-going, but that no arrests have been made.

Coats said she was unable to provide information about the exact location, age or scale of the drug operation, or whether people had actually been living inside the Royal Robbins building.

According to unconfirmed scanner traffic, authorities found an upstairs bedroom inside the commercial property, and one officer indicated that people had been living there.

[Update, 5:30 p.m.: According to an email sent to customers by Royal Robbins, the fire took place "in the studio next door to our store.” Royal Robbins was not affected.]

Coats also said she could not say where the fire actually took place, and whether it was inside the building or on the roof, as was reported Tuesday.

Deputy Berkeley Fire Chief Avery Webb said Tuesday that the fire was confined to a makeshift rooftop deck, and did not spread to the building beyond that.

Read past coverage of fires in Berkeley here on Berkeleyside.

Related:
Breaking: Man injured in Berkeley fire on Gilman Street (05.27.14)
Police rescue 2 men from I-80 overpass fire in Berkeley (05.09.14)
Possible explosion causes fire under I-80 University Avenue overpass in West Berkeley (05.07.14)
Berkeley warehouse fire started accidentally; Wooden Duck not insured for content loss (04.16.14)
After a West Berkeley blaze, praise for the firefighters (04.14.14)
West Berkeley fire causes $5 million in damage, destroys 20 artisan businesses (04.13.14)

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