Berkeley Fire, Haste and Telegraph

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Updates here:

Berkeleyside: Devastating fire in apartment building
Daily Cal on students displaced by fire
KTVU: Streets around fire scene closed indefinitely
The Daily Cal’s Storify page on the fire.
ABC7 report on early progress of fire.
Brief report from Oakland Tribune (worth it for the short photo slideshow)

A five-story, 39-unit apartment building at Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street in Berkeley, three blocks south of campus, burns late Friday night, November 18, 2011. Kate and I were headed home, up Telegraph Avenue, when we heard a KCBS radio report on the fire. Telegraph was closed at Dwight Way, so we worked our way up to Bowditch, across from People’s Park. To avoid a police line, we walked through the park with other spectators. The radio reports described this as a four-alarm fire [later updated to five alarms] and we saw units from Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda County. The TV reports I’ve seen since we got home say the fire was first reported at 8:45 p.m. If that’s true, it took a long time for the building to become fully engaged, because even pictures taken after 10 p.m. show smoke but no visible flames coming from the building. About 11 p.m., KCBS reported that firefighters had been withdrawn from the building’s interior because the fire had rendered the structure unsafe. For the half hour or so we were out there, water was being aggressively dumped onto the fire (including from the aerial apparatus at right), but the more open flame appeared and the fire seemed to spread. One would guess the building, which had several restaurants on the ground floor, is a total loss. While I was taking some video at along Haste Street, a firefighter walked up the street looking for people who lived in the building. He found a few, and directed them to Moe’s Books, where the Red Cross, around the corner on Telegraph, where the Red Cross had set up an aid station.

From KTVU, a possibie explanation for the fire’s spread:

Assistant Fire Chief Donna McCracken said that when fire crews entered the building, it appeared that the blaze began in an elevator equipment room.

“It’s an elevator shaft with open spaces for the fire to travel,” said McCracken. “So, by that time it was already working its way up. It’s a very old, wood-structure building with lots of concealed spaces and the fire already had a head start.”

Below: cellphone video shot on south side of Haste Street, just east of Telegraph.

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