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.

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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  • chip

    Butane hash oil explosion?

  • What’s the #Hash tag?

  • Okay, Ira. You win the day.

  • Cheech


  • Bill N

    Maybe they relocated from under the Univ Ave underpass?

  • JW

    Today’s email message from Royal Robbins:

    “Last night there was a fire in the studio next door to our store.
    Fortunately Royal Robbins was not affected. We are open for business
    today! Come visit us for the 20% OFF sale.

    One person was sent to the hospital for burns and he is doing ok.

    Berkeley Store Address
    841 Gilman St.
    Berkeley, California
    (510) 527-1961

    Store Hours

    Mon-Fri: 10 am – 6 pm *closed June 10th for repairs
    Sat: 10 am – 5 pm
    Sun: 11 am – 5 pm”

  • Cheech!

  • guest

    Personally, my favorite hash is from Saul’s. They do it up right. Rick and Ann’s red flannel hash is pretty darn good, too. An occasional kitchen fire is to be expected in any high volume hash operation, I would think. No biggie.

  • Antonio Noguerra


  • emraguso

    We posted this story on sfgate (we partner with them), and I thought this was an interesting comment someone wrote there: “Most hash made in the US uses a cold water process, so it could never cause a fire. Some Hash Oil, especially all the Dabs products that are so very popular right now (e-cig for thc), uses a Butane process (which is also why the end product is so toxic), so it’s more likely that this is what was being produced, not normal hashish.” (I did fix a couple typos in that quote for clarity.)

  • BillStewart2012

    Most likely; most other hash-related processes these days don’t use solvents, so even people who don’t have the sense not to play with fire don’t explode.

    A few years back I was at a hot spring up near Weed, and a couple of guys were there making hash oil safely. They used the butane to extract the oil, and then set it in a bowl in the spring to evaporate, no fire needed.

  • chip

    There have been many news reports the last few years of butane hash oil fires/explosions in SF and Oakland and other locations. Google ‘butane hash oil’ in news and you’ll see…

  • guest

    Was this part of the legal or illegal drug trade?

  • the Deer

    Used to be the movie house. Blue Velvet was seen there. history…..

  • Cheech


  • Reading is Fundamental

    “officers responding to the fire Tuesday discovered an illegal marijuana grow and hashish production operation on-site.”

  • Robertjm

    The old Rialto Theater!!

    My father took me to see the strange double feature of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Barbarella.

  • I’m still wrapping my head around the idea of your father taking you to see Barbarella. Did he know what the movie would be like?

  • Robertjm

    Yes he did. We were actually going specifically to see Star Trek. But, I would’ve been 16ish at the time.

  • Thanks to you I can Tag #Hash from Rick & Ann’s