Not arson, despite odor
Smelling volatile chemicals and spotting flammable fluids, Berkeley police figured they had a case of arson when they arrived at a burning home at 1156 Miller Ave. just after 6:16 Wednesday evening.
“It was not an arson,” said Deputy Fire Chief David Orth, “though I can see why they thought it was.”
The real culprit was a discarded cigarette, combined with the dry late-autumn weather and a recent and still-odorous application of linseed oil to the front deck.
The prompt arrival of firefighters extinguished the blaze, but not before the flames had done $35,000 in damage to the structure and another $12,000 to contents.
“It’s lucky there wasn’t a wind,” said one police officer. “That could have spread really fast.”
Grounds for blaze
An unwatched coffee pot takes the blame for a fire that did a total of $11,000 in damage to a home at 1031 Channing Way Sunday evening.
Orth said the occupant had started a pot of coffee on the stove, then forgot about it after he walked out into his backyard.
Spotting the flames, he called 911, and firefighters arrived in time to quench the blaze before it did more serious damage.