Thick black smoke in the Richmond area that was first spotted around 12:45 p.m. concerned many observers in Berkeley. NBC Bay Area reported on Twitter that a vegetation fire is burning near I-580 and Bayview Avenue.
— Jenifer MacGillvary (@JMacGillvary) October 24, 2019
— John Zuchelli (@tvzuke) October 24, 2019
The Berkeley Fire Department has received “multiple wind-driven calls this morning including power lines and tree limbs down,” said Assistant Chief Keith May, a department spokesman, in an email.
Around 8:30 a.m. crews responded to a burning tree limb on the 1500 block of Hawthorne Terrace “after a live powerline disconnected,” May said. The fire was contained to the single tree.
A Berkeleyside reader also shared a photo of a felled tree on Francisco Street, between MLK Way and Milvia Street. The tree lay across the entire street, blocking it. Firefighters were on the scene, said the reader, who identified themself as “Roseman.”
BFD is also monitoring conditions in the hills and has added an extra engine patrol for the day, May said.
Tamar Sarkissian, PG&E spokeswoman said Thursday morning’s outage reached a total of 6,078 customers in Berkeley, Albany, Kensington and El Cerrito. Most have been restored, with 453 homes and businesses still lacking power. The cause has still not been determined, she said.
About 349 PG&E customers in Berkeley — and hundreds more in Albany and El Cerrito — lost power Thursday morning, according to an online outage map.
The utility’s website says power went off at 8:20 a.m. Thursday morning and is expected to be restored at 11 a.m. Berkeleyside has reached out to PG&E for more information.
Some Berkeleyside readers reported that their lights came back on shortly after 9:30 a.m. One shared on Twitter an alert message he received from PG&E saying nearly 4,000 customers were affected across the connected cities.
Unlike this month’s widespread and controversial “public safety power shutoffs,” Thursday’s outage, which affects northwest Berkeley, appears to be unplanned. PG&E’s website says the cause is unknown and is under investigation.
On Twitter, Kristina Hill said some stores on Gilman Street, like Walgreens and Whole Foods, were closed and had posted handwritten notes explaining that power was out. Others reported that all of the Fourth Street shopping district went dark.
PG&E has preemptively shut off power throughout Northern California citing fire risk, but a spokeswoman said Thursday there are still no plans to do the same in Alameda County. Forecasts of the gusty winds blowing throughout the city Thursday morning prompted the National Weather Service to issue a red flag warning for fire danger in the East Bay hills, including in Berkeley. Winds are expected to increase over the weekend.
In Sonoma County, fear of fire became reality as a blaze tore through the rural area around Geyserville overnight. By Thursday morning the so-called Kincade Fire had spread across 10,000 acres. The National Weather Service has warned that shifting winds Friday could carry smoke from the fire throughout the Bay Area.