Berkeley Sauna closed temporarily, 6 displaced after fire

A fire in the 1900 block of Milvia Street caused extensive damage Saturday. Photo: Joshua Schoolfield
A fire in the 1900 block of Milvia Street near downtown Berkeley caused extensive damage Saturday. Photo: Joshua Schoolfield

A two-alarm fire over the weekend in the Milvia Street building occupied by a popular Berkeley spa caused up to $100,000 in damage, temporarily closed the operation and displaced six residents, authorities said Monday.

On Saturday, Feb. 15, just after noon, the Berkeley Fire Department responded to a report of “black smoke coming out of the windows” at 1947 Milvia St., a two-story building just north of University Avenue with apartments over commercial spaces, said Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb via email.

Arriving firefighters found heavy smoke coming from the rear of the building. A working fire was declared, and the incident was upgraded to a two-alarm assignment, said Webb. It took approximately 40 minutes to bring the fire under control.

The fire appears to have started in an interior wall adjacent to a mezzanine-level sauna room. Webb said fire damage was “primarily within the structural spaces of the upper-level walls and floor, toward the north end of the building.”


PG&E responded, and disconnected utilities. The American Red Cross also responded, to help residents find temporary housing.

Initially, there appeared to be 15 or more residents gathering outside the building, said Webb. It was later determined that only six residents actually lived in the second-floor apartments. Additional bystanders outside are believed to have been customers of The Berkeley Sauna.

There were no reported injuries to citizens or firefighters, said Webb.

Damage was estimated to be between $75,000 and $100,000. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Anna Acs, The Berkeley Sauna’s owner, said she hopes she’ll be able to re-open the business next week, possibly by Wednesday, Feb. 26.

She said the fire was not actually inside The Berkeley Sauna itself, but that some walls were damaged during the response to fight the blaze. Electricity remained off as of Tuesday night, and Acs said she’s waiting for inspections that need to take place before it can be restored.

For updates about when The Berkeley Sauna will re-open, check its Facebook page. Acs said she hopes to know more by the end of this week.


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This story was updated as additional information became available. We always appreciate breaking news tips and photographs via email (tips@berkeleyside.com), or on Twitter and Facebook.