Fire Department Log By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 07, 2004

Fireplace Ash Triggers $1.1 Million Blaze, Destroys Cragmont Ave. Home 

Flames ignited by a box of fireplace ash placed under a wooden deck destroyed a million-dollar home in the Berkeley hills Sunday morning along with contents valued at $120,000. 

Deputy Fire Chief David Orth said the owner of the house at 524 Cragmont Ave. had cleaned out ashes from a fireplace fire from the night before and stored them in a box under the deck. 

“He was sitting at his computer when he saw smoke,” Orth said. “He evacuated himself and a tenant.” 

Within minutes, the flames had spread from the deck to another deck above and had penetrated the home bursting through two floors and on through the roof in multiple places. 

The home was fully engaged when engine crews arrived, and they battled the flames for more than two hours before bringing them under control at 11:48 a.m., Orth said. 

“We went through a lot of air bottles fighting that one,” said Orth. “There were heavy winds blowing right before the fire, but fortunately they’d died down. Otherwise we might’ve had real problems,” he said. 

The owner of the home, a writer, was distraught about the loss of manuscripts, Orth said.  

Mattress Gone, Home Saved 

A frayed electrical cord ignited a mattress in the rear of a home at 2531 Dana St. shortly before 8:25 a.m. on Nov. 29. The alert homeowner spotted the smoke and called the fire department. 

A few quick spritzes from a fire extinguished snuffed the flames, which were fully controlled a few short minutes later. 

Loss was mainly confined to the mattress, Orth said. 


One Remodel Leads to Another 

Residents of a home at 1480 Ninth St. had stowed most of their belongings in their converted garage for remodeling, but had forgotten to shut down their wall heater. Sometime in the cold night hours before 2:31 a.m. Saturday, the heater kicked in, igniting belongings stored next to it. 

Flames had spread to the kitchen when firefighters arrived. 

The blaze was fully controlled by 3:15 a.m. 

The homeowner received minor injuries in the incident and was treated at the scene, said Chief Orth. 

Damage to the contents—almost all of them having been moved to the garage—was estimated at $25,000, with structural damage estimated at $45,000.