LETTER AND PHOTO FROM MARK COPLAN:
We live on the block behind the house that caught fire early this morning on the 2900 block of Lorina Street between Russell Street and Ashby Avenue. It was pretty intense, and from our roof the situation didn't look good because the fire engulfed the back side of the house, making it difficult for the fire fighters to get to it. I could see our neighbors in their back yards, and fire fighters going through the back yard directly behind the fire for a better look. Everyone living on this side were concerned that the huge tree in the fore-ground of these photos would burn as well. We could see smoke billowing out from the front of the house too, so we were concerned that it might get out of control.
You could literally hear hundreds of gallons of water being thrown at the blaze from both sides, and you could see the jets of water shooting into the night, up and over the fire. I could hear fire fighters shouting instructions and information back and forth. Their calm methodical communication was really reassuring.
After being awoken around 2:40 a.m. to see the house in flames and the fire department just arriving; the majority of the fire, at least the towering flames that threatened the neighborhood, were under control before 3 a.m. The Berkeley Fire Department was amazing. We went back to bed feeling relieved that the situation didn't get out of control. We didn't know about the woman who lost her life until we heard about it on the morning news.
From Steven Finacom:
Here are two pictures of the house, taken this morning. (Most of the fire damage is not visible from the street. It appears much of the back of the house was gutted, and the fire also burned part of the attic (you can see the broken windows in the gable).
This house is probably one of the original little Victorian cottages built here in the "Newberry Tract" in the 19th century. The Newberry Tract was south of Russell, east of Adeline, west of Ellsworth and includes some one-block-long streets like Lornia. Many of the original houses remain but most have been substantially altered on the exterior. This is one of the few that still retains the Victorian 19th century character on the outside.
A woman was killed and two others were injured in a two-alarm fire at a multi-unit Berkeley residence early this morning, fire officials said.
Firefighters responded to the 2900 block of Lorina Street, a residential street near the intersection of Ashby and Shattuck avenues, at 2:36 a.m.
Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy fire blowing out the back of the three-story home, Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said.
A woman was retrieved from the third floor attic area of the house, but did not survive injuries suffered in the fire and was pronounced dead at the scene, Dong said.
Two other people were injured in the fire and taken to a hospital by ambulance. One suffered from smoke inhalation and the other had minor burns, Dong said.
Firefighters were able to control the fire within about an hour, and while the house itself is still standing, firefighters are expecting there is heavy interior damage.
Eight people were inside the home when the fire started, including the woman who died. Five were residents of the home and three were visitors, Dong said.
The displaced residents would be referred to the Red Cross, he said.
Dong said it was unclear if there were smoke detectors in the home, but that could have made a difference. "We'd like to remind residents to have working smoke detectors," he said.