The Sequoia Apartments at the corner of Telegraph and Haste, the building which housed Mario's La Fiesta for more than 30 years, experienced a big, smoky fire two-alarm fire Tuesday afternoon, attracting fire crews from all stations in the city of Berkeley.
Deputy Fire Chief Sabrina Imrie told the Planet that the first call came at 3:19 and the fire was out by 4:11. She said that in all five engines, two trucks and 32 firefighters were used to do the job.
"It's better to get in and give it all you've got," she said.
The fire started in a wooden plank door in a stairwell, producing lots of black smoke. Chief Imrie said that firefighters had to chase it up and down the stairs, making the job even more difficult. All residents of the multi-unit multi-story building who were at home were evacuated.
By 4:30 another fire department spokesperson reported that the fire was completely out, but firefighters remained on-site to be sure all was well.
Alltogether, six fire trucks and two ambulance units were observable on the scene at various times, along with numerous police and traffic enforcement staff.
Telegraph and Haste were both closed to traffic a block out from the intersection in all directions. Emergency personnel and spectators lined the nearby sidewalks, as ladders were put up to the building roof from two directions. Water spilled down Haste Street.
Telegraph reopened by 5:00 pm, Haste by 5:30. A small number of residents, mostly appearing of college student age, were let back into the building by police at 5:15. The ornate lobby appeared untouched, and there was only a faint smell of smoke on the nearby streets.
There were no signs of damage to the exterior of the building. Street front businesses now in the building include the popular Cafe Intermezzo and Raleigh's pub. Both were closed and dark, but appeared undamaged. Partially eaten meals remained on the tables in Intermezzo.