Page One

Fire This Morning at Berkeley Iceland: A Neighbor's Reaction

By Jane Stillwater
Monday October 17, 2011 - 04:41:00 PM

There were at least six fire trucks clustered outside of Berkeley's Iceland on Milvia Street at 6:00 am this morning. What caused the fire and how much damage did it do? I asked around. "The building itself is basically indestructible," commented one bystander who appeared to have insider knowledge regarding Iceland, "so no basic damage was done. However, some rubber mats were set on fire and so the smell of burning rubber has permeated the building." 

"Do you know what caused the fire?" I asked. 

"Sure there was some sort of homeless encampment inside and apparently one of the homeless got careless with matches." I was surprised. It seems like breaking into Iceland would be a daunting task. "Actually, it is," the bystander replied, "but somehow they manage to do it anyway. There have been homeless people living inside of Iceland for at least the last four and a half years." 

After the fire trucks had gone, I peeked into one of the graffiti-smeared front windows and saw immediately that the bystander had been right. There was garbage and junk strewn around everywhere. The place looked like it had been hit by a small tornado. 

Because I live just across the street from Iceland, at Savo Island Cooperative Homes, the thought of having Iceland continue to remain vacant indefinitely worries me very much because our own housing property, which is not made out of concrete like Iceland, is very vulnerable to fires. 

"Sports Basement is trying to get permits to build a store here," continued the bystander, "and I think they will be a good neighbor, and will offer lots of interesting classes to the community as well as just selling sports equipment." Plus I have heard that "Save Berkeley Iceland" is also trying to re-open the place as a skating rink. 

As a resident living in direct proximity to Iceland, however, frankly I don't care who opens it again or who takes it over. I just want it to stop being an empty hazardous eyesore.