Category Archives: Fire

Hills group sues FEMA over plan to cut down trees

Thousands of the Berkeley hills eucalyptus trees may be removed with funding from FEMA. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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A neighborhood group has sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following its decision to fund fire mitigation efforts in the East Bay hills.

Earlier this month, FEMA announced its decision to grant $5.67 million to the California Office of Emergency Services, which will distribute the funds to UC Berkeley, the city of Oakland, and the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) to remove tens of thousands of eucalyptus trees in the fire-prone hills. Immediately after, the Hills Conservation Network (HCN) filed a lawsuit against FEMA in federal court.

The HCN, a small group whose members live in Claremont Canyon, one of the areas covered by the grants, objects to the plan to “clearcut” the hills’ eucalyptus trees. … Continue reading »

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Monte Cristo, closed briefly by fire, to re-open today

Taqueria Monte Cristo was closed briefly Wednesday by a fire on the roof. Photo: Chris Draper
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A popular Mexican restaurant on University Avenue was closed briefly by a small fire Wednesday afternoon, but the business is set to re-open today around lunchtime.

The Berkeley Fire Department initially was dispatched for a report of a kitchen fire at Taqueria Monte Cristo just after 4:30 p.m., said Avery Webb, Berkeley’s deputy fire chief.

Four engines, a ladder truck, an ambulance and a battalion chief were dispatched to the scene, at 1446 University (between Sacramento and Acton streets).

Webb said responding firefighters found no fire in the kitchen, but found smoke coming from the roof, where contractors had been using a torch to apply building materials.

Upon investigation, firefighters learned that filters in the ventilation system had caught on fire while the roofers worked. They then used dry chemical extinguishers to put out the flames, and set the filters aside.

“But it started smoldering again,” said Webb. “The ventilation system drew smoke and dry chemicals into the restaurant.” … Continue reading »

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Fire

2-alarm fire in Berkeley causes $350,000 in damage

There was a 2-alarm fire in North Berkeley on Monday morning. Photo: Katherine Baylor
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A North Berkeley house fire early Monday caused approximately $350,000 in damage and left the home uninhabitable, officials said.

The Berkeley Fire Department received a call at 5:38 a.m. about the fire, in a two-story home in the 1300 block of Delaware Street, between Franklin and Chestnut streets, said Avery Webb, deputy fire chief.

Webb said a caller told dispatch that lots of smoke was coming out from under the eaves of the home, which was not occupied because it was undergoing a remodel.  … Continue reading »

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Grumpy Cat comes to Berkeley Humane in style, fanfare

Grumpy Cat, held by her owner Tabatha Bundesen, poses with City Councilmember Linda Maio and Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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With a police-escorted motorcade fit for a foreign ambassador or an A-list Hollywood star, viral internet star Grumpy Cat rolled into Berkeley in style Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of fans waited outside Berkeley Humane at 2700 9th St. to catch a glimpse of Grumpy Cat, who has a permanent scowl on her face and millions of fans on social media. Tucked in the arms of her owner, Tabatha Bundesen, Grumpy Cat oversaw the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Berkeley Humane’s new mobile adoption center.

Following the ceremony, Grumpy Cat held a private photo session with her fans. Tickets for an up close and personal were reserved long before Saturday. The opportunity to take a photo of Grumpy Cat — or with, for the lucky fans who registered for the photo session in time — drew residents from beyond the Bay Area. … Continue reading »

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Update: Cyclist hurt, 5 elevator rescues in Berkeley power outage caused by PG&E equipment failure

Traffic stopped in all directions before proceeding at the intersection of University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way because of a power outage in the area affecting thousands of customers in Berkeley. Photo: David Yee
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Update, 3:30 p.m. PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian said Friday afternoon that the company has identified the cause of Tuesday’s power outage as an equipment failure during testing at an East Bay substation.

Sarkissian said she learned Friday that the outage actually originated at a substation in El Cerrito, not in Berkeley as had previously been reported by PG&E. She was not able to provide the exact location of the station.

Sarkissian said the testing had been planned, but that additional details about the nature of the equipment failure are still under investigation. She stressed that PG&E is focused on ensuring that its system is safe and reliable, and said she will release additional information when it is available.

Original story, 1:30 p.m. Tuesday’s widespread power outage in Berkeley and nearby cities kept first responders busy with one accident that sent a cyclist to the hospital, five elevator rescues and a handful of other calls, authorities said. … Continue reading »

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Fire guts abandoned clubhouse in John Hinkel Park

The historic redwood clubhouse in John Hinkel Park, gutted by fire. Photo: Lance Knobel
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A fire gutted the John Hinkel Park clubhouse early on Friday, Jan. 16. The Berkeley Fire Department received reports of sparks seen in the clubhouse at 6:45 a.m. on Friday, and four engines, a truck, an ambulance and a batallion chief were dispatched to the scene.

When engine 4 arrived at the park, just off the Arlington in north Berkeley, they saw the west end of the clubhouse in flames, according to Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb. Because of pre-planning at the site, the department knew the building was not in use and the location of the nearest water supply. The fire was under control in about 30 minutes, Webb said.  … Continue reading »

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Man sentenced to 15 years in Berkeley double stabbing, arson that killed puppy

Berkeley police and fire responded to a stabbing followed by a fire on Harmon Street on Jan. 29, 2013. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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A 52-year-old Berkeley man arrested in 2013 after police said he stabbed two people and set a South Berkeley house on fire, killing a puppy, was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison.

Victor Lamb entered a no contest plea in October in connection with attempted murder, great bodily injury and using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a felony after the Jan. 29, 2013, stabbing of two people, and subsequent arson, which killed a Chihuahua puppy named Midnight. Two police officers had to drag Lamb onto a ladder out of the second story of a burning home in the 1400 block of Harmon Street after he barricaded himself inside, told officers he had doused himself in lighter fluid, and said he wanted to die, according to court papers.

Initially, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Lamb with a much longer list of violations — including two counts of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, arson of an inhabited dwelling, animal cruelty, robbery and elder abuse, because one of his victims was more than 70 years old. The prosecution dropped many of those charges after Lamb’s no contest plea, negating the need for trial.

According to a transcript from Lamb’s preliminary hearing, in late September 2013, two witnesses testified about being stabbed by Lamb, who had a long history of mental health issues and sometimes took medication as a result. They said he had no recent history of serious violence, but would often become moody, verbally abusive and threatening, and display bizarre behavior. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley first responders rescue woman from marina

A woman was rescued from the water near the Berkeley Pier on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2014. Photo: Dogen Frost
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Berkeley emergency responders rescued a woman from the water at the Berkeley Marina early in the morning on Sunday, Jan. 11.

At 5:32 a.m., Berkeley’s emergency communication center received a report of someone in the water at the Berkeley Pier yelling for help, according to Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb. Both Berkeley police and firefighters responded. … Continue reading »

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Exclusive: Man died after Berkeley protests delayed help

A resident of this building died after a paramedics were delayed from responding to his medical crisis on the second night of Berkeley's recent protests. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A man who collapsed while waiting for Berkeley paramedics to arrive later died at the hospital, city employees have told Berkeleyside, after large protests that wracked the city earlier this month delayed first responders.

Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong has declined to comment on the incident, saying he is prohibited from doing so because of medical privacy laws.

“Anytime there is a delay it causes us concern,” he said, speaking generally. “Our objective is to get there rapidly so we can start treating the patient.”

Several city staffers — who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak with the media — confirmed that paramedics were delayed in their response to help the man who collapsed, and said he later died at the hospital.

See the February 2015 follow-up report on this story.

There were near-daily protests in Berkeley from Saturday, Dec. 6, through Sunday, Dec. 14, in connection with police-involved killings in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York. The most disruptive incidents took place Dec. 6 and Dec. 7.

The first night, police used tear gas and projectiles to disperse a Telegraph Avenue crowd that earlier in the night had attacked officers by hurling bottles, an ice pick and a sandbag, among other items, authorities said. The following night, officers kept their distance from the crowd which, though largely peaceful, included more than a dozen people who smashed the windows of Berkeley businesses and set debris fires as they marched through the city.

The second night, there was also a small group of people who police believe may have been responsible for attacking a man with a hammer downtown during the looting of Radio Shack, an armed robbery on Fulton and Ward streets, and shooting through the door of a Berkeley homeowner, in the 1800 block of Carleton Street, who confronted them about items they had stolen earlier in the night at Radio Shack. Those suspects — described as four young black men who at times wore white medical masks and rode BMX bicycles — remain at large. … Continue reading »

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Fire

Big rig fire on I-80 west in Berkeley snarls traffic

Fire on westbound Interstate-80. Photo: Deborah Durant
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Update, 2:10 p.m. Authorities say multiple lanes of westbound Interstate 80 will remain closed for at least one more hour after a big rig trailer caught fire shortly before 1 p.m.

According to a statement issued by CHP spokesman Officer Sean Wilkenfeld, the CHP began to receive numerous 911 calls at 12:45 p.m. that a big rig was on fire on I-80 westbound near Gilman Street in Berkeley.

Wilkenfeld said, initially, the driver of the big rig was unaware of the fire, “until other motorists began honking and getting the driver’s attention.” … Continue reading »

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15 displaced after early-morning fire in North Berkeley

12 people were displaced when a fire broke out Monday morning at 1802 Bonita Ave. Photo: David Yee
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A fire broke out at 1802 Bonita Ave. near Delaware Street around 5:06 a.m. Monday morning, displacing 15 people living in various rooms.

No-one was injured in the blaze, which sent huge flames shooting above the white, three-story Victorian-style house.

“When crews arrived they found fire and smoke coming from the third story,” said Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong. “It looked like a dormer attic space.” … Continue reading »

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Woman jumps out 3rd story window to escape fire

A woman was injured Sept. 13 when she jumped from a third story window to escape a fire that had broken out at 3144 King St.
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A woman who jumped out of an apartment building to escape a fire Saturday morning suffered serious injuries and was transported to a local trauma center, according to officials.

The Berkeley Fire Department responded to a report of a fire at 3144 King Street, between Woolsey and Fairview streets at 9:01 a.m., according to Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb. The fire erupted in a hallway outside a bedroom on the third floor and created a lot of black smoke, he said.

Two women were inside the bedroom when the fire started, said Webb. One apparently tried to escape by jumping from the window to a tree, but the branch sje landed on broke and she fell three stories to the ground, said Webb. The other woman was rescued by firefighters. … Continue reading »

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1 year after devastating fire, 3 events planned for Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp

A photograph taken at the site of the Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp on Aug. 28, three days after the Rim Fire swept through it. Photo: U.S. Forest Service
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The Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp group is holding three fundraising events, starting on Friday August 22, to mark the first anniversary of the Rim Fire which effectively destroyed the much-loved, city-run family summer camp.

On Aug. 25, 2013, the largest recorded wildfire in the Sierra Nevada burned 92 of the Tuolumne camp’s 111 structures, including all of its main buildings.

The Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, the non-profit organization that supports and serves the campers of Berkeley’s Camp Tuolumne, says the goal of the events is “to bring together the families of Camp Tuolumne and to keep their camp spirit alive and well as we work together to rebuild Camp Tuolumne.” … Continue reading »

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