Floor-to-Ceiling Collectibles Hamper Firefighting Efforts

Tuesday June 29, 2004

After an unsuccessful attempt Friday to quell a cooking oil fire that soon got out of control, a Jones Street resident ran two blocks to the nearest fire station to report the blaze in person. 

“Fortunately, neighbors had already called it in before he got there,” said Berkeley Fire Department Deputy Chief David Orth. 

Unfortunately, however, firefighters arriving at the scene found the first floor to be impenetrable. 

“Every doorway, every window was completely packed, so we had to go in through a second-story window—which is not the best way to enter,” Orth said. 

Inside, they found the entire structure packed floor-to-ceiling with personal possessions. 

Once the flames were extinguished, the firefighters had to cut a hole in the wall of an unburned room to empty it of belonging, then chop a hole in a second wall to get at and remove the burned debris. 

“The one fortunate thing was that all that stuff kept the fire from spreading rapidly,” Orth said. 

The firefighter estimated damage to the house at $30,000, though he had no estimate on the contents. “He’s a collector, and it was all precious to him,” Orth said, adding that cluttered houses are one of the less-heralded hazards to flame-fighters. “We run into them every once in a while.”ª