A power surge swept through the East Bay Tuesday, knocking out electrical service to 21,000 customers in Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, El Cerrito and Richmond and leaving one hapless Berkeley resident trapped in an elevator.
Deputy Fire Chief David Orth said the surge kept Berkeley emergency responders busy after the pulse hit the city moments before 4 p.m.
“It blacked out the north end of the city from Cedar Street north and the hills up to Spruce Street,” Orth said.
A resident of the apartment building at 2747 Haste St. was trapped in an elevator by the surge, prompting a call to the Fire Department. Power was not knocked out to the area, but the surge stalled the lift, and firefighters reset the system, enabling the trapped resident to complete their ride.
“PG&E still doesn’t know what caused the outage,” said Orth.
It also triggered numerous alarm systems.
The outage’s impacts were worse in El Cerrito and Richmond, he said. The surge knocked out power to a key computer system at the El Cerrito emergency dispatch system, and the California Highway Patrol was receiving emergency calls via cell phone.
Most customers had their power restored by 9:30 p.m., he said.
Careless handling of his smokes by a homeless person was the apparent cause of the early morning fire that caused $5,000 in damage to a vacant cottage at the rear of a similarly vacant home at 1839 Berkeley Way Thursday, Orth said.
A caller reported smoke at the property at 4:23 a.m.; a call of flames followed within minutes.
Fire fighters arrived to find flames burning the floor of the dwelling, with the homeless squatter still in residence.
The flames were quickly extinguished and the illegal occupant was taken into custody by police on suspicion of trespassing, Orth said.