Local, Nor-Cal Blazes Keep Berkeley’s Firefighters Busy

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:28:00 AM

In addition to fighting two fires and rescuing a woman from the waters off the Berkeley Marina, Berkeley firefighters tackled two out-of-town assignments in the last seven days. 

One Berkeley fire engine and three crew members have been battling the Indian Fire in Monterey County. The firefighters finish their seven-day tour today (Thursday) when they’ll be replaced by three more from Berkeley, said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong.  

Some 400 blazes were reported—most in Southern California—suggesting an epidemic of wildfires of epic proportions. 

The deputy chief said the engine dispatched to the Indian Fire is one of the smaller Type 4 engines, equipped with the four-wheel-drive needed to handle the rugged back country. All the city’s large Type 1 engines will remain in Berkeley to handle emergencies here, he said. 

Berkeley firefighters also headed to Oakland Friday, to take over that city’s fire station at 61st Street and Telegraph Avenue after firefighters there were summoned to handle a six-alarm blaze that destroyed or heavily damaged five buildings near the intersection of 93rd Avenue and International Boulevard. 


Marina rescue 

Perhaps the most dramatic event began at 4:25 p.m. Tuesday, with a rescue call for a woman in the water just north of Skate’s on the Bay at 100 Seawall Drive. 

As soon as the first engineer company arrived a second was dispatched to aid with the rescue, said Deputy Chief Dong. 

“It’s very difficult to rescue someone from the water there,” said the firefighter. 

The second engine company provided a rescue ring and rope system to draw the woman out of the waves and carry her up over the rocks, with Berkeley police also pitching in. 

The woman, described as “50 or older,” was given warm IV solutions and rushed to Highland Hospital for treatment as a near drowning. 

“We’re not sure how she got into the water,” said the deputy chief, “although there are unconfirmed reports that she jumped.” 


Small fires 

Firefighters also tackled two small residential fires Wednesday morning. 

The first call came at 9:09 a.m. from an apartment building in the 1700 block of Sixth Street. Damage from the blaze, which broke out in a trash can was largely confined to the rubbish container, although the bedroom sustained some smoke damage, said Deputy Chief Dong. 

The second report came at 10:44 a.m., from a residence in the 1600 block of 16th Street. 

“The arriving engine company found a fully involved mattress fire in a carport,” said the deputy chief. The only damage was to the mattress itself. 


Holiday warning 

Berkeley firefighters will be especially vigilant in enforcing laws against private use of fireworks of any sort as the Fourth of July draws near, Dong said.  

“We will confiscate anything we find,” he said. “Three years ago we had four fires on the Fourth,” including two structure fires and a second-alarm grass fire. 

The grass blaze, which erupted behind Lawrence Hall of Science, was subsequently traced to a bottle rocket. 

For those who crave the sights and sounds of a memorable fireworks display, Dong suggests a visit to the annual show at the Berkeley Marina, “which will be attended by both expert pyrotechnicians and expert firefighters.”