Tag Archives: Berkeley Fire Department

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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Pepper spray, less-lethal rounds used in 2 recent arrests

Berkeley Police station. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley police officers used pepper spray to subdue a mentally ill man, described as belligerent and threatening, who refused to allow himself to be handcuffed, according to a document posted Friday on the city website.

In another recent case, Berkeley police used less-lethal rounds and baton strikes to detain a mentally ill man who advanced on them with a piece of wood, then later tried to escape police custody, authorities reported last week in response to a query from Berkeleyside.

The pepper spray incident took place Aug. 6 on Camelia Street west of San Pablo Avenue after an officer had stopped a man who was “acting violent and causing a disturbance” around 8:30 a.m. The welfare check involved someone possibly affected by mental health issues, and a second officer responded to the scene to assist.

The man’s name was redacted from the report posted on the city website.

According to the report, the officers tried to communicate with the man but he was belligerent and threatening, “saying he would become violent if we approached him.” The man “flexed his chest, shoulder, and arm muscles, and made fists with both his hands.”  … Continue reading »

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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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Medical helicopter lands in Berkeley’s San Pablo Park

A medical helicopter has landed in San Pablo Park to transport a patient. Photo: hfidek
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A medical helicopter landed at West Berkeley’s San Pablo Park on Thursday afternoon to take a patient to UC Davis, according to unconfirmed scanner reports, for care.

The Berkeley Fire Department picked up the patient from Alta Bates Hospital at about 3:10 p.m., and planned to meet the helicopter at the park, according to scanner traffic.

Carolyn Kemp, spokeswoman for the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, said the hospital and Berkeley Fire Department began working together around 3 p.m. “to ensure a helicopter airlift of a patient with a life-threatening and rare medical condition.”

Kemp could not provide additional information due to medical privacy laws.  … 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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Berkeley camp bus accident injures at least 16

Image: Google maps
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At least 12 children and four adults were injured when a bus full of Berkeley summer campers rear-ended a Nissan van on westbound Interstate 80 on Monday morning, causing a “chain reaction collision,” the California Highway Patrol has reported.

The accident took place at approximately 10 a.m. on I-80 near Ashby Avenue. Officers who responded to the scene found a yellow school bus with approximately 50 children on board, ages 5-15, according to the CHP, along with five other involved vehicles.

Oakland CHP spokesman Officer Sean Wilkenfeld said all of the injuries appeared to be minor. The Berkeley Fire Department responded to the scene to treat the children, he said.

One parent identified the children on board as attendees of Camp Kee Tov, run by Congregation Beth El in North Berkeley. The campers were heading for Middle Harbor Park in Oakland for a field trip, the CHP reported. … 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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Water main rupture causes Berkeley street to buckle

Police officers walk through the rushing waters of a water main break on Parker Street, near Regent Street, in Berkeley, on Monday, July 13, 2015. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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On Monday evening a water main rupture flooded Parker Street near Regent in central Berkeley and caused part of the street to buckle. Water gushed down the 2500 block of Parker for nearly an hour before East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) was able to shut off the flow.

The Berkeley Fire Department received a call at 5:49 p.m. alerting it to the water main break, according to BFD Deputy Chief Avery Webb. Webb said an engine responded and firefighters found the water main break to be in the roadway in front of an apartment building at 2511 Parker St. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley zoning board to consider demolition on Durant

2631 Durant
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The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board will consider granting a permit to demolish a 2-story, 18-unit rent-controlled apartment building on Durant Avenue at its meeting Thursday, June 25, as part of the owner’s plan to replace it with a 5-story, 56-unit building.

The board’s main decision will be to determine whether to grant the demolition permit for 2631 Durant or require the owner to rehabilitate the Southside neighborhood building, just east of the now-shuttered Berkeley Art Museum. The new project would include 40 studios and 16 2-bedroom units, common facilities, bike storage, a first-floor office and 2,240 square feet of open space on a rooftop deck. Parking would not be provided.

To replace the rent-controlled units, the owner has proposed that 20 of the new units will be offered at 65% of the consumer price index, “although rents would be allowed to increase to market rate upon vacancy. These 20 units represent habitable square footage comparable to … the existing 18 units, and would accommodate the same number tenants,” according to the staff report prepared for Thursday night’s meeting.

Opponents of the demolition have asked the board to reject the permit or at least delay the vote, saying that the property had been neglected intentionally to pave the way for the new building. … Continue reading »

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Six people killed in Berkeley balcony collapse identified

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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By Tracey Taylor and Emilie Raguso

Update, 4:40 p.m. According to the city of Berkeley, Philip Grant, the Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, will have a wreath-laying ceremony at 5 p.m. near the site of the balcony collapse.

The city expects its investigation into what caused the collapse to take several days: “As part of the City’s investigation of the incident, the City will be retaining possession of the collapsed materials. Building and Safety staff have been on scene since early Tuesday morning, shortly after the collapse. Once the damaged materials are removed from the building, they will be taken to a City facility and will remain under City control.”

City staff members have taken other steps, as well, to document the scene and the damage. Inspectors have already been inside the unit, and have “completed an up-close, aerial investigation using cranes to examine the damage,” the city reported just after 4:30 p.m. At that time, the city also released property records related to the building where the accident took place.

Update, 3:30 p.m. At around 3:15 p.m., crews in downtown Berkeley used a crane to remove the fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens, which fell in the early hours of Tuesday, killing six people.

ORIGINAL STORY: The six people who died early Tuesday morning after a balcony collapsed in downtown Berkeley have been identified as Ashley Donohoe, 22, from Rohnert Park; and Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller, all 21 years old and from Ireland.

See complete coverage of the balcony collapse.

At a press conference that started at around 1:15 p.m., Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to Western United States, said: “Our hearts are breaking but it is so good to know that so many people stand with us.”

Listen to an audio recording of the press conference below. … Continue reading »

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