Berkeley firefighters put out small debris fire at Old City Hall

BFD responded to a small fire on the landing of Old City Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 6. Photo: Kelly Sullivan

The Berkeley Fire Department responded to a “small debris fire” on the landing above the steps to Old City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, extinguishing it quickly.

There were no injuries, said BFD spokesman Keith May, but the fire caused “paint damage” on the exterior of the building at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, where the City Council meets. No smoke entered the building, he said.

The department sent the typical four engines to respond to the single-alarm fire, but quickly released three, according to May. He told Berkeleyside he was still gathering information about the exact timing of the incident, but said the fire was out by 3:25 p.m.

May said the cause of the fire was not yet clear, but said the department might have more information later Tuesday afternoon.


“We’re not sure how it started,” though it looked like some objects from the homeless encampment on the lawn was involved, May said. Some members of the “First They Came for the Homeless” political group and homeless encampment have been living at Old City Hall since November, when they were evicted from their nearly year-long post at the Berkeley-Oakland border. The group has grown to occupy much of the lawn and has been joined by other camps.

The Tuesday afternoon incident was the second small fire in the area in the past month.

On Jan. 11, a fire destroyed a lean-to where a man was living at the corner of Allston Way and MLK. The man, who neighbors said had lived at the site before the protest camp moved in, said he knocked over a candle inside the shelter, which he built. The fire also destroyed a bush, which firefighters later chopped down with chainsaws.

Nobody was injured in that case either.

Faint smoke was visible above Old City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, as firefighters responded to a small debris fire. Photo: Kelly Sullivan

Berkeleyside will update this story with any new information.