Update: BFD said homeless person with open flame likely caused fire downtown

The fire in the 2100 block of University. Photo: Pete Rosos

Update, Tuesday, July 10, 1:25 p.m. The fire that broke out at 2145 University Ave. on Monday night, behind the building that used to house Ace Hardware, was likely caused by an open flame from a homeless person who had been using a storage shed at the site, according to BFD Assistant Chief Keith May. “At this point, due to the amount of fire damage, the storage shed being vacant except for a known homeless individual who stays at the site, the most likely cause is open flame ignition,” he said by email. May said the shed that caught fire measured about 20 feet by 80-90 feet. He said the fire caused about $20,000 worth of damage to the shed, and another $10,000 to $15,000 in damage to the building. There was a further $40,000 worth of damage to the adjacent apartment building from radiant heat.

Original story, July 9, 10:32 p.m. Fire crews in downtown Berkeley quickly brought a blaze at the old Ace Hardware building under control Monday night as neighbors were taken outside temporarily and helped outside to safety, authorities report.

The location was identified as 2145 University Ave., the longtime home of Ace Hardware before it moved to Milvia Street in 2016. Reports of the fire, which broke out at the rear of the building, began to come in at about 10:15 p.m. in the 2100 block of University. The Berkeley Fire Department used water and foam to knock down the fire, according to unconfirmed scanner reports. Police helped with traffic control during the response.

BFD had declared the fire under control as of about 10:30 p.m., according to unconfirmed scanner reports.


Kevin Doxzen shared the following video of the fire just before 10:20 p.m.

Assistant Berkeley Fire Chief Keith May confirmed at about 10:40 p.m. that the fire, which started to the rear of a building in the 2100 block of University Avenue, had been declared under control.

The initial report came in at 10:11 p.m., and crews arrived to the old Ace Hardware building at 10:15 p.m., May said.

Firefighters found a working fire and called a second alarm, drawing more resources to the scene, at 10:20 p.m. By 10:32 p.m., the fire was under control, however. Four engines, a truck, a battalion chief and an ambulance remained on scene as of the time of May’s update.

“They’re just doing some overhaul, to mop up and make sure nothing flares up,” he said. Investigators also will begin to attempt to determine the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage, he said.

Nearby apartments were evacuated, but May said the building that caught fire was vacant. He said, according to initial reports, the fire began behind the old Ace Hardware, perhaps in some trash cans, and then spread inside.

There have been no reports of injuries, he said.


As of about 11:20 p.m., residents had been allowed to return home, according to scanner reports.

The fire in the 2100 block of University. Photo: Pete Rosos

The morning after

Scene of Monday night’s fire photographed on the morning of Tuesday, July 10. Photo: Citizen reporter
Scene of Monday night’s fire photographed on the morning of Tuesday, July 10. Photo: Citizen reporter
Scene of Monday night’s fire photographed on the morning of Tuesday, July 10. Photo: Citizen reporter

This story was updated several times after publication due to the developing nature of events. The dimensions of the shed also were updated after a reader told Berkeleyside they seemed to be inaccurate. Berkeleyside requested clarification from BFD and a new figure was provided.