Category Archives: Fire

Fire destroys downtown Berkeley restaurant

Firefighters fight a fire at the Mandarin Garden restaurant, in Berkeley, on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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The Berkeley Fire Department responded to two fires at the Mandarin Garden restaurant at 2025 Shattuck Ave. (at University) Friday morning.

The second, two-alarm fire, which gutted the restaurant, was significant enough to require evacuations from nearby properties, but was mostly under control around 7:30 a.m.

According to Berkeley Fire Battalion Chief Brian Harryman, the second fire appears to have started in a different area of the building from the first one which BFD had determined they had extinguished.

Both the Patelco Credit Union and shuttered Ichiban restaurant that are on either side of Mandarin Garden suffered serious damage. A new restaurant called Venus Café, that was due to open in about a week in the Ichiban location, will now take months to repair, according to its co-owner, Peter Kwong. … Continue reading »

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Dwight Way fire may have caused $1M in damage

Firefighters climbed onto the roof to fight a two-alarm fire on Dwight Way, near Telegraph Avenue, on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Photo: David Yee
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A fire in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood on Sunday may have caused $1 million in damage, authorities said this week.

The fire, at 2449 Dwight Way in the Chandler apartment building, appears to have started in a fourth-floor unit on the west side of the building, then spread to the attic. Acting Berkeley Fire Chief Avery Webb said the fire appears likely to have been accidental, based on the preliminary investigation. The investigation is, however, ongoing.

About 30 people were displaced as a result of the fire, either staying with supporters or receiving help from the Red Cross for temporary housing. A representative from the Red Cross said Wednesday it is assisting 26 people, and that the agency is still working to determine the short- and long-term needs of those individuals.

One person had to be carried out of the building by firefighters and was treated at a hospital, but was released Sunday evening. In addition, two cats are reported to have perished in the Dwight Way fire. A third cat was rescued by firefighters and survived the blaze. … Continue reading »

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Two fires hit West Berkeley and Southside

Firefighters transfer a victim to a gurney during a two-alarm fire on Dwight Way, near Telegraph Avenue. Photo: David Yee
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By Frances Dinkelspiel and Emilie Raguso

Update: Nov. 23, 8:55 a.m. About 30 people were displaced from their apartments Sunday night after a fire ripped through the Chandler apartment complex at 2449 Dwight Way.

The fire was one of two that struck Berkeley within 15 minutes, prompting the Berkeley Fire Department to call in mutual aid from Oakland, Albany, El Cerrito and the Alameda County Fire Department, according to Avery Webb, Berkeley’s interim fire chief.

Both fires went to two alarms – something that Webb said he had never remembered happening before.

“We were stretched pretty thin trying to manage both incidents at the same time,” said Webb. “To have two second-alarm fires at the same time is extremely rare. It’s pretty unusual.” … Continue reading »

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West Berkeley fire causes $100,000 in damage

The Berkeley Fire Department responded to an apartment fire Monday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley Fire Department responded Monday to an apartment fire on University Avenue that caused $100,000 in damage.

Interim Berkeley Fire Chief Avery Webb said the fire department received a report just before 10:40 a.m. of a water-flow alarm from the fire suppression system at 1122 University, just east of San Pablo Avenue.

The city dispatched a single-alarm assignment for a possible structure fire.

When firefighters got to the 5-story building — four stories of residential over ground-floor commercial — they found light smoke on the fourth floor, and water flowing from under an apartment door.  … Continue reading »

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House fire on Ellis Street sends two residents to hospital

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By Tracey Taylor and Wendy Cohen

Berkeley firefighters and police responded to a fire at 2917 Ellis St. (between Russell and Ashby) on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.

According to Berkeley Fire Department Battalion Chief Paul Cavagnaro, the two-story house had six residents, four of whom were home when the fire broke out. All are safe, but two were taken by ambulance to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, he said.

As about 11:25 a.m., the fire was under control and crews were doing “overhaul”: looking for hot spots and debris. The 2900 block of Elis was closed at that time. … Continue reading »

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As drought raises fire risk, Berkeley focuses on safety

Police and firefighters will be out in the North Berkeley neighborhoods this week practicing wildfire response (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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How long does it take to evacuate a block of Berkeley homes threatened by an encroaching fire? Ten minutes, 30 minutes, more? That was a question posed by Lt. Andrew Rateaver, Area 2 Commander with the Berkeley Police Department, at a community meeting on wildfire safety convened by council members Susan Wengraf, Laurie Capitelli and Lori Droste on Oct. 1.

The gathering was prompted by several inescapable, sobering facts: the state’s ongoing four-year drought is creating the perfect conditions for wildfires; trees are drying up; wildfires are spreading faster than in 30 years; and wildfires in western states generally are lasting 78 days longer on average than in the past. All these statistics were cited by Timothy Buroughs from the City of Berkeley’s resilience office. “This is not a blip, it’s a trend,” he said. More evidence if it were needed: the state Forest Service now spends more than 50% of its budget on fighting fires — as one of its directors said recently: “We’re no longer a forest service, we’re a fire department.” … Continue reading »

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Small fire knocks out UC Berkeley’s computers, WiFi

Earl Warren Hall, where the datacenter fire occurred on Friday night. Photo: Google Streetview
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A small fire at the UC Berkeley datacenter in Earl Warren Hall on Hearst Avenue on Friday knocked out the campus’ entire computer network from 7 p.m. An overheated server apparently sparked the fire, which in turn triggered the center’s fire suppression system. The Berkeley Fire Department responded to the fire, evacuated the building and ensured that the fire was controlled. No injuries were reported.

“Since the fire shortly after 7 p.m., we’ve been all hands on deck with folks working around the clock,” said university spokesman Roqua Montez. Speaking at 10:20 a.m. on Saturday morning, Montez said the datacenter is back up and storage is mostly back up.

Applications, including CalNet — which enables the university’s many websites — are still down. “We don’t have a timetable for that yet,” Montez said. The university’s WiFi is also still down. … Continue reading »


Alcohol at Cal: Authorities report record arrests, tickets

Paramedics load a patient into an ambulance during a response to an alcohol poisoning call at Freeborn Hall in the Unit 1 dorms at the University of California, in Berkeley, on Sunday, August 23. The call came in as a possible alcohol poisoning case involving a 19-year-old female in the bathroom of Freeborn Hall. Photo: David Yee
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An annual enforcement effort targeting drinking at UC Berkeley as the semester kicks off has netted a record number of arrests and citations related to alcohol use around campus, but the calls for medical service for heavily intoxicated students have been on the decline, authorities reported this week.

The Berkeley Police Department tallied 423 arrests and citations over the first two weekends of the school year, from Aug. 21-23 and Aug. 27-29, around campus and in the Southside neighborhood.

The operation was a collaboration between the Berkeley Police Department and the state Alcoholic Beverage Control agency, which funds the effort through a grant. The annual effort dates back to 2004, and has netted 3,400 arrests and citations over that time related to possession of open containers in public, minors in possession of alcohol, furnishing alcohol to a minor, minors in possession of fake IDs and public intoxication.

The numbers have fluctuated over the years, from a low of 179 in 2006 to a high this year of 423, which was a 29% increase in overall arrests and citations over the prior year. This year was the first to show more than 400 arrests and citations.

Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police spokesman, said officers saw record numbers of minors in possession of alcohol (133 citations), as well as minors in possession of fake IDs (80 citations). Open container violations (180) were the second highest recorded since 2004.

White said the number of fake IDs confiscated was particularly notable. In many past years, several dozen of these IDs were confiscated. That number jumped to 44 in 2011, rose the following year to 78, dropped a bit the next two years, then hit its peak, at 80, this year. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley must restrict parking on narrow streets

It's difficult for emergency vehicles to pass through many of Berkeley's narrow streets. Photos: Bob Flasher
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The Berkeley Disaster and Fire Safety Commission is working on a proposal to restrict parking on what it describes as “the excessively narrow streets in the hills fire zone.” The commission has suggested this as a result of FEMA recommendations that followed the 1991 Tunnel Fire.

Wildfires have already scorched hundreds of square miles of California, long before the most threatening months of the fire season. Homes and lives have been lost. We need to prepare in advance of life-threatening fires to ensure that loss of life and property in Berkeley will be minimal.

While Berkeley’s fire department has made significant operational and equipment improvements since the 1991 Tunnel Fire, most of the additional neighborhood changes recommended by FEMA and the Hills Emergency Management Forum have yet to be implemented.

One of the most essential changes recommended is to limit parking on excessively narrow, winding streets in the Hills Hazardous Fire Area. These limitations would be crucial to allow 24/7 emergency access, not only during disastrous urban interface fires, but for everyday medical emergency runs. … Continue reading »

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Authorities practice wildfire response in Berkeley Hills

Police and firefighters will be out in the North Berkeley neighborhoods this week practicing wildfire response (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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This week, Berkeley police and firefighters will be making the rounds in some North Berkeley neighborhoods as they practice skills related to urban wildfire response.

According to a notice released by police Monday morning, the training is set to take place Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week in the North Berkeley Hills.

“The purpose of these training sessions is to improve the safety of our residents during wildfire emergencies. Responders will practice real-time determination of evacuation routes, firefighting tactics and strategies, and communication protocols,” according to the statement, which was released over the Nixle alert service.

The training comes on the heels of an early-morning vegetation fire in Tilden park on Sunday that drew five fire companies to the Berkeley-Oakland hills to put it out. Sunday’s fire broke out not far from where the historic 1991 firestorm began, on Oct. 19, 1991. On that day, firefighters believed they had succeeded in extinguishing the blaze. But flames erupted again the next day, aided by strong winds, and the resulting conflagration turned into one of the worst firestorms ever seen in the country. … Continue reading »

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Crews extinguish 1-acre vegetation fire in Tilden Park

Fire map
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At least five fire companies responded to a vegetation fire that broke out before sunrise in the Berkeley-Oakland hills Sunday.

According to Avery Webb, interim fire chief of the Berkeley Fire Department, its communications center received a report of a vegetation fire west of the Tilden Park Steam Train at 5:45 a.m. Sunday.

Berkeley Fire responded, along with fire companies from Oakland, Moraga/Orinda, East Bay Regional Parks, and Cal Fire. … Continue reading »

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Broken fire hydrant makes Berkeley geyser

There's a broken fire hydrant at Acton and Addison. Photo: Toph Burns
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A broken fire hydrant in central Berkeley sent water shooting up into the sky Friday morning.

Berkeleyside readers alerted us to the situation, at Acton and Addison streets, at 11 a.m.

Wrote Toph Burns, on Twitter, when he shared this photograph: “Quick everyone, bring buckets and laundry!” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley fire chief is now interim deputy city manager

Gil Dong has been with the city since 1990. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong has stepped into a new position with the city after 25 years in the Fire Department. As of Saturday, Dong is wearing a new hat for Berkeley as the interim deputy city manager.

Interim City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley appointed Dong to the position July 17, according to a memo to the Berkeley City Council. Both Williams-Ridley and Dong began in their new roles Saturday, after the departure of former City Manager Christine Daniel. Friday was Daniel’s last day before beginning a new job for the city of Oakland as assistant city administrator.

Dong started his long career in Berkeley as a firefighter and paramedic in 1990, and steadily moved up through the ranks. He told Berkeleyside, when he became fire chief in 2013, that he believed he had been “destined to become a firefighter.” … Continue reading »

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