A three-alarm fire at a residential hotel in downtown Berkeley this morning forced a dramatic evacuation and caused several minor injuries, but a quick response by firefighters minimized the damage, a fire official said.
The fire was reported at 7:41 a.m. at the Nash Hotel at 2045 University Ave., near Shattuck Avenue. It was controlled by 8:25 a.m.
Some of the residents of the three-story hotel, which has about 40 units, were "hanging out windows calling for help" but they were able to get out safely by using a fire escape and an aerial ladder set up by firefighters, Berkeley acting Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb said.
Avery called the evacuation process "intense" because most residents needed assistance due to the heavy smoke.
He said there was "a huge life hazard" because the blaze could have spread to the adjacent University Hotel at 2057 University Ave.
University Hotel residents were also evacuated as a precaution but have since been allowed to return to their rooms, Webb said.
Three or four people were evaluated at the scene by paramedics but no one had to be hospitalized, Webb said.
The cause of the fire hasn't yet been determined, he said.
The flames were mostly contained to a single unit on the second floor of the Nash Hotel but there was also fire damage to the second floor hallway and there could be smoke and water damage to other parts of the hotel, Webb said.
Ed Silva of the Red Cross of Alameda County said his agency is picking up displaced residents to feed them and find housing for them until their rooms are ready.
Silva said he believes the Red Cross only needs to help about 15 residents, as many of the hotel's units appear to have been empty.
Webb said he thinks most of the hotel's residents could be allowed to return to their rooms soon, depending on the condition of the building's utilities.
Hotel resident Scott Prosterman said he was sitting on his bed in his second floor room meditating when he heard a smoke alarm and yelling in the hallway and called 911.
He said the fire was in Room 214, which is next to the hotel's central elevator.
Prosterman said hotel officials told him "get out now" and that he was the first person to leave via the building's fire escape.
Allan Ild, who has lived at the hotel for about two years, said the hotel's proprietor knocked on the door of his third-floor room and told him to get ready to evacuate.
Ild, who uses a walker, said he dressed quickly and then firefighters helped him go down an aerial ladder.
He said he has been told that he won't be able to return to his room until Wednesday.