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Berkeley Fire Victim Identified

By Jeff Shuttleworth and Scott Morris (BCN)
Friday June 22, 2012 - 02:56:00 PM

A woman who died in a fire at a multi-unit Berkeley home this Thursday has been identified as 26-year-old Meredith Ann Joyce, according to the Alameda County coroner's bureau. 

It appears that Joyce lived in Oakland and the home where the fire occurred is where her boyfriend lived, but that information isn't confirmed, a coroner's spokeswoman said.  

The fire was reported at 2:36 a.m. Thursday at a green, three-story Victorian-style home at 2919 Lorina St. Lorina Street is a one-block street that runs between Ashby Avenue and Russell Street and is near the busy intersection of Ashby and Shattuck avenues. 

Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said firefighters who responded found heavy fire blowing out the back of the home. 

Joyce was retrieved from the third floor attic area of the house, but she did not survive her injuries and was pronounced dead there, Dong said. 

Two other people were injured 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 two-alarm 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 were referred to the Red Cross, he said. 

It was unclear if there were smoke detectors in the home, but that could have made a difference, he said. 

Berkeley Unified School District spokesman Mark Coplan, who lives in the 1900 block of Wheeler, which is one block east of Lorina Street, said he was wakened by the fire and it appeared to be "pretty intense." 

Coplan said, "It initially looked like the entire house was in flames but it turned out that it was just the back of the house." 

He said he was afraid a huge tree behind the house at 2919 Lorina St. would catch fire and the blaze would spread to adjacent houses, but firefighters were able to keep it from spreading and were able to contain it quickly. 

"They did an incredible job," Coplan said.