Open letter: Residents thank Berkeley police, firefighters after house fire

There was a serious residential fire Saturday on Hearst Avenue between Curtis Street and San Pablo Avenue. Photo: Lucas Harrington

Residents of a home that caught fire Saturday in the 1100 block of Hearst Avenue have released a statement to thank first responders. They also ask for privacy and community support. Cause and damage estimates have not yet been released.

To begin, thank you to everyone who has been sending support our way during this difficult time. In particular, thank you for the heroic actions of Berkeley Police Sgt. Landrum, who selflessly entered the home before the Berkeley Fire Department arrived, and the tireless efforts of the Berkeley firefighters and first responders, who arrived on the scene within minutes and worked to prevent this horrible situation from becoming much worse.

We would also like to extend our deepest appreciation to Berkeley Animal Care Services, who housed and took care of our animals, as well as our amazing neighbors who came from blocks away and donated clothes, shoes, and food as the fire was actively raging. We wanted to reach out and let our community-at-large know some of the details of the tragedy that struck our home Saturday morning, May 11, 2019.

Our property is a multi-generational household of Berkeley locals and extended chosen family. First and foremost, this is a family home and the heart of our community. We were brought together by a common belief that community is the key to sustainable living and the long-term success of every individual. Over the last 20 years, the Cory family has developed that community with this property as the nexus. The household supports a group of non-neurotypicals, providing a home to many young adults with developmental disabilities and emotional disorders, and the loss of it has displaced most of those people.


We all survived due to the quick thinking and heroic actions of father Bill Gies and daughter Leighlin Gies, who worked together to remove mother Jill Cory, a quadriplegic with multiple sclerosis, and disabled grandmother Carolyn Cory when the flames began to overtake the upper level of the main house. Quick communication with the rest of the residents initiated by god-daughter Lilian Manahl ensured that everyone got out alive, including all of the pets.

We appreciate our privacy during this difficult time, but value the support being offered. If you would like to aide in the rebuilding of our lives, please contribute to the GoFundMe. All donations received will be distributed among the victims. We are a strong community that has suffered a disastrous ordeal but can and will work together to recover and rebuild.

Thank you.

—The family on Hearst Avenue