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Post-Christmas Fire Claims Berkeley Cats

By Richard Brenneman
Monday December 29, 2008 - 04:42:00 PM

Two cats died on Friday from smoke inhalation in a slow-burning fire in a rented home at 1367 La Loma Ave. 

“A neighbor called at 9:44 a.m. after seeing smoke coming from the residence,” said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong. The first engine to arrive found the house full of “smoke and a lot of heat.” 

No humans were present, however, so an initial search of the home found the asphyxiated felines as well as the source of the smoke. 

“Apparently someone had left a rug partially covering a floor furnace,” said the deputy chief. While the heat began to char the rug, which then spread to the wooden flooring. There appears to have been little or no flames. 

Slow-burning fires, or pyrolysis, can cause extensive damage, and in the La Loma dwelling, the embers ate a four-foot hole in the floor, reducing floor joists beneath to ashes. 

“We estimate the damage to the residence at $50,000, and damage to contents at $10,000,” said Deputy Chief Dong. 

Unlike many a Christmas past, he said, Berkeley made it through the holiday without an oven fire from a forgotten roast or turkey. 

The residents of the home had still not appeared by the time firefighters cleared the scene.