Timely Alarm Limits Arson Damage

Friday July 30, 2004

The timely screech of a neighbor’s smoke alarm early Thursday morning saved the vacant house at 1720 Vine St. from major damage, said Deputy Fire Marshal Wayne Inouye of the Berkeley Fire Department. 

Once awakened, the neighbor searched for the cause of the alarm, finding her answer when she looked out the window and saw flames eating at the basement door of the house next door. 

The call to firefighters came at 2:15 a.m., and they arrived a few minutes later and quickly extinguished the blaze, limiting the damage to the door and surrounding frame. Inouye estimated the damage at $5,000. 

The cause was easily pinpointed in the box of matches found at the scene. 

“The fire was set from the outside,” Inouye said. “There was dry rot in the door frame, which is easily ignited because of all gaps it creates. No accelerant was needed.” 

At the front of the house, a “for sale” sign had recently sprouted a “sale pending” addition.