Fire Department Log

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 18, 2008 - 09:27:00 AM

Weekend fire demolishes Berkeley hills home 

A spectacular early morning three-alarm fire visible from miles away demolished a Berkeley hills home on Sept. 6 and brought in crews from fire departments in Oakland, Albany, Alameda County and the East Bay Regional Parks District. 

Berkeley Fire Department Deputy Chief Gil Dong said the city’s emergency switchboard was flooded with calls starting at 1:44 a.m. 

“The fire was so visible that we were getting calls from the Berkeley flats, and you could see it from Highway 24,” he said. 

When the first crew of firefighters arrived four minutes later, they found heavy smoke and flames pouring from the two-story dwelling in the 1000 block of Creston Road, which is located just east of Grizzly Peak Boulevard. 

Firefighters immediately sounded a second alarm because nearby vegetation had caught fire and the flames were threatening adjacent homes on either side of the burning building. 

Soon, they sounded a third alarm. 

While Berkeley firefighters fought the flames, crews from the other agencies covered the gaps left in the city’s own coverage, while the parks district firefighters patrolled the nearby streets looking for flare-ups caused by burning embers. 

“We found ember burns to the rear canopy of an adjacent home.” said the deputy chief. 

Two of the home’s three occupants were away at South Lake Tahoe and the third was visiting a friend. 

One firefighter sustained a knee injury during the blaze and received emergency room treatment at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. 

Both the home and its contents were totally consumed, and damages have been estimated at $1.5 million. 

Deputy Chief Dong said the fire began in vegetation near the rear of the dwelling, ignited by improperly discarded smoking material. “It probably smoldered for a while,” he said. 

A total of 10 fire engines and trucks and their crews along with two ambulances and four chief officers took part in fighting the flames, which were controlled at 3:42 a.m. 

School arson 

Students were evacuated from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School on the morning of Sept. 10 after someone set fire to the contents of a trash can in a second floor bathroom. 

Deputy Chief Dong said the blaze had been extinguished before emergency crews arrived shortly after 11:30. 

No one was injured in the incident and students were allowed to return to class. 

The deputy chief said the fire had been intentionally set. 

Tree relief 

Besides battling blazes, Berkeley firefighters were also on hand for last week’s showdown at Memorial Stadium that ended with the removal of the last four tree-sitters on Sept. 9, said Deputy Chief Dong. 

“We had am ambulance, an engine company and a chief officer on hand in case anyone fell or was otherwise injured,” he said.