Arson May Have Caused Berkeley Hills Fires

By Jeff Shuttleworth(BCN)
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 06:37:00 PM

BERKELEY (BCN) Two fires that broke out simultaneously at homes a block away from each other in the Berkeley hills early this morning may have been caused by arson but there is no definitive proof at this time, Berkeley Fire Chief Debra Pryor said. 

Pryor said fire crews first responded to a report of a fire at a home at 548 Cragmont Ave. at 12:43 a.m. 

A firefighter on his way to that house noticed a second blaze at 494 Cragmont Ave. and diverted to that house, she said. 

At 548 Cragmont Ave., a vehicle that was parked in the driveway apparently ignited and the blaze then transferred to an outside building -- a combination of a garage and storage area -- but did not transfer to the house, Pryor said. 

The fire was soon brought under control and no one was injured, she said. 

Pryor said the cause of the blaze has not been determined and "arson hasn't been ruled out." 

However, she said there is no firm evidence of arson, as no ignition sources have been found. 

Pryor said the fire at 494 Cragmont Ave. was small and was confined to an area outside the house and that the firefighter who diverted to that blaze was able to put it out quickly with a fire extinguisher. 

She said at this time fire officials "are considering that it was a coincidence" that the two fires occurred at the same time a block away from each other but they are concerned just the same. 

The residents of the two homes were evacuated temporarily while the fires were being extinguished, but they were allowed to go back into their homes after a short time because there was no fire or smoke damage to the homes, Pryor said. 

She said damage estimates for either fire were not yet available.