A four-alarm fire is raging in the Sequoia Apartments building, on the northwest corner of Haste and Telegraph in Berkeley. The tile-faced five-story building, which dates from the early 20th century, has 39 apartments on its upper floors. The storefront on the first floor for many years housed Mario's La Fiesta Restaurant. There was a two-alarm fire in the building in February of this year.
The fire seems to have started sometime before 10 p.m. The many firefighters and fire equipment on the scene came from Albany, Oakland and other surrounding jurisdictions as well as from Berkeley. A large group of spectators which had gathered on Haste Street were pushed back to Bowditch by firefighters at 11 p.m. as flames shot through the roof of the building.
In the crowd many were in tears. A young woman named Annamaria, whose principal language is Spanish, sobbed in the arms of her husband Jose—both are employed in the building. Another weeping young woman, a resident, was being supported by friends on each arm. She said that she thought it was an electrical fire and was spreading through the walls, so that it would be impossible to extinguish.
The fire is still burning, with flames still visible from blocks away, though it seems a bit calmed.
Ken Sarachan, the proprietor of Rasputin's records a block north, and owner of several properties on Telegraph, told the Planet that he first saw the fire just before nine o'clock, and people on the street at that time told him it had been burning for a while by then.
He observed at least 12 fire trucks and many firefighters, but he said he wondered why those on the scene didn't seem to be shooting any water on the building.
He heard someone call from an upper story that it was "getting pretty smoky in here".
By 1 a.m. it was apparent that it was not going to be possible to salvage the building—the interior was consumed in flames.