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Press Release: Final Report Confirms that Berkeley Fire Was Accidental

From Mary Kay Clunies-Ross
Monday February 06, 2012 - 04:29:00 PM

The Berkeley Fire Department finalized the investigation report for the 2441 Haste “Sequoia Apartment” fire, which confirms the initial findings that the fire ignited accidentally in the building’s elevator mechanical room. 

The report is a “origin and cause” report, which means that its scope is to 1) determine whether the fire was started deliberately or accidentally and 2) by what means the fire started. 

“It is my opinion this fire originated in and around the steel compartment where the elevator resisters (were) located,” the report, written by Fire Marshal John Fitch, stated (page 6 and 7). “There were no visible signs of significant burn patterns within the electrical mechanical room except for the immediate area in and around the area where the elevator resisters were located… I observed no indications which led me to believe this fire was intentionally set.” 

All debris from the fire has since been removed from the site, and all streets and sidewalks have been reopened. 

On Friday, November 18, 2011, Berkeley Firefighters responded to a reported structure fire at 2441 Haste Street in Berkeley. The first call came in on Friday, Nov. 18, at 8:48 p.m., and the 5th alarm was requested at 9:32 p.m. Mutual aid was provided to Berkeley by the cities of Oakland, Albany, Alameda City, and Alameda County Fire Departments. Additional command support was provided by Albany, Alameda County, Livermore/Pleasanton, Oakland, Moraga-Orinda, San Ramon Valley, and El Cerrito Fire Departments and Paramedic Plus. 

The fire resulted in total destruction of the 39-unit, four-story apartment building. It smoldered through the weekend and was declared extinguished on the afternoon of Monday, November 21. 

The Berkeley Fire Department worked closely with the Berkeley Police Department, Rent Stabilization Board, the American Red Cross, and the University of California-Berkeley to account for all the tenants. They verified on Wednesday, November 23, that all 68 tenants were accounted for and safe. 

Staff from the American Red Cross, City of Berkeley, the Rent Stabilization Board, the University of California, Berkeley worked together to secure temporary housing for the displaced residents. In addition, the Small Business Administration opened up an office to help affected tenants and business owners apply for low-interest federal disaster loans.