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Elderly Woman Dies In Berkeley House Fire

Friday July 09, 2004

Larnice Holliman, an 87-year-old Berkeley woman, died Thursday afternoon in a fire that swept through her one-story wood-frame house in the 1500 block of Allston Way.  

Holliman was identified to the Daily Planet by neighbor Gary Gunn. A spokesperson for the Berkeley Fire Department said that the department was not allowed, by law, to release the names of victims, and the Berkeley Police Department did not answer telephone inquiries by press time. 

Gunn, a tenant who lived in an apartment/work space in the rear of the building, said he and an assistant were making electronic guitar sound pickup units when they smelled smoke. 

“I said ‘This is not barbecue smoke,’” Gunn said. 

After breaking down the connecting door between the two units, Gunn said he was overpowered by the dense black smoke pouring out of his landlord’s apartment. Unable to enter, he called 911, then began hosing down the rear of the building to prevent the flames from spreading. 

“I knew she was in there but I knew she was already dead,” Gunn said. 

By the time firefighters arrived five minutes later, five and six-foot flames were pouring out the windows, Gunn said. “They had it extinguished within 15 or 20 minutes,” he added. 

Gunn said Holliman was a smoker and disabled. He heard she had a history of strokes and was suffering from arthritis, bad feet and bad eye site. “But she was still lucid,” said Gunn. 

Holliman’s grandson also lived on the property, but was at work at the time of the fire, Gunn said. By Thursday evening, Holliman’s next of kin had been notified of her death, and her body had been released to the Alameda County Coroners Office.›