East Bay firefighters are watching the skies with concern as high-risk fire conditions arrive with the start of what they expect will be a three-day heat wave, said Deputy Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong.
“We’re asking people to be vigilant and diligent,” he said, “and to call at the first sign of any fire or the smell of smoke.”
The danger signs will be posted at all the city’s fire stations.
Nose for fire
Deputy Chief Dong wasn’t jesting when he urged folks to call at the first scent of smoke because it was just such a call that kept a fire from doing more damage than it did on Aug. 19 to a home in the 1000 block of The Alameda.
“The call started out as an odor investigation,” he said.
A call at 12:36 a.m. reported the smell of smoke in the area, and one engine was sent to check it out. Within minutes, the firefighters discovered the source of the smoke in a residential garage, and a call was sent out for a full complement of engines and firefighters.
The fire apparently began after a coal from a barbecue lit earlier in the day rolled under a garage door and beneath a set of shelves, where it eventually ignited some books and papers.
The flames did about $8,000 in damage to the shelves, garage and front porch, and about $4,000 to the structure’s contents, said Deputy Chief Dong.
A Sunday afternoon basement fire caused about $5,000 in damage to a home in the 1100 block of Allston Way.
Responding to a 12:50 p.m. call, firefighters arrived at the two-story home, where they quickly knocked down the flames, confining the damage to the basement. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.
The fire department’s hazardous materials team rushed to the Washington Mutual Bank branch at 2150 Shattuck Ave. late Monday afternoon after a caller reported a possible chemical spill on the bank’s carpet.
“The engine company found a section of the carpet had melted, apparently from an acid-type substance,” said Deputy Chief Dong.
Further investigation revealed that the cause hadn’t been malicious.
“It was something like acetone that had inadvertently leaked from a bag someone was carrying,” he said.
By the time the hazmat team and Berkeley police were leaving the scene, a housekeeping crew was cutting away the damaged carpet and getting ready to replace it.