A Molotov cocktail hurled at a UC Berkeley fraternity forced the evacuation of 50 residents from the Sigma Pi house during the predawn hours Saturday.
Berkeley Police spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said city police and firefighters learned of the blaze in a 4:43 a.m. call from a resident of the house at 2434 Warring St.
They arrived to find a couch and a front window frame ablaze.
The caller told the 911 dispatcher that he had been sitting by a front window smoking cigarette minutes earlier when he “heard a loud thud on the house deck.”
Ten minutes later, after he fired up another smoke, he head another loud thud, and when he looked out the window, he saw two shadowy figures running southbound on Warring, Sgt. Kusmiss said.
After they had vanished, he heard another sound—a door slamming—followed by the footsteps of another Sigma Pi running up the stairs and yelling for everyone to get out because there was a fire at the front of the house.
“This man said he was about to walk out the front door when he saw flames shooting up in front of a large front window,” Sgt. Kusmiss said.
The smoker called 911 to report the thuds and the flames, and a quick response by Berkeley firefighters confined the blaze to the couch and window frame and prevented further damage.
Once the flames were out, firefighters spotted two bricks inside the window and the smoke-blackened bottle that had served as the body of the Molotov cocktail.
Investigators deemed the fire an arson, said the sergeant, as well as vandalism.
“Fortunately, no one was injured,” she said.
UC Berkeley Police said one of their officers also spotted the flames at the same time as the student caller dialed 911, and had helped the students fight the flames with a fire extinguisher until Berkeley firefighters arrived to hose down the soda.
Officers from both agencies search the area for suspects, but without results.