A blaze triggered by a faulty water heater demolished a $1.3 million home in the Berkeley Hills early Tuesday morning, reports Deputy Fire Chief David P. Orth.
"The building was completely destroyed," he said, and the loss of contents added another $150,000 to the cost of the fire, first reported at 3:30 a.m.
When firefighters arrived at the home at 98 Avenida just below Grizzly Peak Boulevard, the whole structure was ablaze.
"The owner said he tried to call three times on his cell phone, but the call was dropped each time," Orth said. "The house is located in a very bad area for cell phone coverage."
By the time another caller got through, the flames had spread throughout the structure.
About 25 firefighters using five engines and two trucks battled the flames, but they were unable to save the residence.
"It was very impressive fire," Orth said. "There was a lot of fire and a lot of fuel. The upper two floors collapsed into the basement, and all that’s left are parts of a couple of walls."
While the flames ignited some of the surrounding vegetation, the trees surrounding the home were redwoods and didn’t catch.
Unlike pines, which often "flash" in moments into flames which engulf all of the needles, redwoods are much are harder to ignite, he said.
The fire did minor damage to a deck and hot tub of the neighboring home at 100 Avenida, he said.
There were no injuries.
Photograph by Berkeley Firefighters Association.