Berkeley Fire, Haste and Telegraph


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 About 11 p.m., KCBS reported that firefighters had been withdrawn from the building’s interior because the fire had rendered the structure unsafe.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.

High Country: Carson Pass and Beyond


Since the automobile-borne traveller can’t and doesn’t want to do straight-line trips in the Sierra (lots of river canyons, ridges, peaks, valleys, and rocky defiles of every description in your way), our trip last Saturday from the Calaveras County outback to the alpine embrace of Hope Valley was roundabout. Employing our usual late start, we made it to Carson Pass (elevation 8,573 feet) just as the sun was setting. Just east of the pass on Highway 88 there was a turnout, and we pulled over to take in the scene. Above: looking north: Red Lake Peak (elevation 10,063). Below, looking east, across Red Lake (elevation 7,800); I think the mountain in the left-center distance is Hawkins Peak (elevation 10,024).


Aspen, Up Close


We made a long weekend trip up to the Sierra over the Armistice/Veterans Day weekend. Friday: to Calaveras County to visit our friends Piero and Jill, who have a couple acres and a cabin up there. Saturday: After more hanging out at the 4,800-foot contour, we drove back out to Highway 88, then drove up over the passes to an aspen-filled highland valley just south of Lake Tahoe (it’s called Hope Valley, elevation about 7,000). This is a place that a lot of cyclists get to know because it’s on the route of the Tour of the California Alps (a.k.a. Markleeville Death Ride). There’s a resort there called Sorenson’s that I’ve passed by many times. As I said to Kate as we headed there, I have long harbored the desire to visit the place in the fall to see the aspens take on their fall color; I wanted to make the drive even though I was pretty sure all that gold and orange I’ve seen pictures of is well past.

We just showed up late in the afternoon yesterday on the off chance they’d have a cabin, one, and two, that they’d be OK with us having a dog in the room. We scored on both counts. Last night, after listening to the Oregon-Stanford game on the radio (Go Ducks), we went for a walk in the near-full moonlight up a trail behind the resort. It was cold enough that frost had formed on the surfaced of the eight or ten inches of snow on the ground and made the footing pretty good uphill and downhill. This morning before breakfast, we took the same walk. As I expected, the aspens had shed all their leaves. But there are big stands of them up the trail and throughout the valley–quaking aspens, Populus tremuloides (seriously), so called because it’s said their leaves stir in the slightest breeze.

From afar, their bark is white, or silver, or gray. They’re striking in a mountain landscape. From closer up, you see something different happening in the bark–large scars and knots. And getting very close, galaxies of these tiny (pigment?) rings.

Posted in Berkeley: General Strike


Or “Huelga General,” if you want to be more literal (and Spanish) about it. Posted in the window of Subway Guitars at Cedar and Grant streets. (In fact, we’re in between “general strikes.” This poster refers to the event last week. And now students up at Cal are planning another one for next Tuesday, largely in response to the aggressive police tactics employed the other day to prevent protesters from setting up an “Occupy” encampment.)

R.I.P., Mary Dahl


Kate took this one during an August visit to Mount Olive Cemetery, up on the North Side of Chicago. It’s where my dad’s people are, and it’s impressive to see such a collection of Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians in one place. Every once in a while–pretty frequently, actually–you come across a headstone that, with only names and dates, seems to tell a story. In this case: the three short lives of Mary Dahl.

Briefly, here’s what I can find through looking at some genealogical records. George and Mary Dahl (nee Marie Johnson) arrived in Chicago from Norway in 1883 and ’86, respectively. George and Mary had several older children, born in Norway. Their first American-born child apparently was Mary II, born in January 1889. A Cook County death certificate (below) says she died on June 28, 1893. The cause: croup, which according to contemporary reports killed hundreds in Chicago that year and was perennially listed, along with diphtheria, another disease that involved airway obstruction, as a leading cause of death for children.

So where does Mary III come in? A Cook County birth certificate (middle document below) lists the birth of a baby girl named Marie to George and Marie (Johnson) Dahl on August 18, 1893. In other words, just seven weeks after the death of Mary II. By the 1900 Census, both Marie, the mom, and Marie, the daughter, are listed as Mary. (If not for the headstone inscription, that could be dismissed as a census enumerator’s error. The 1900 Census also lists Mary I, the mother, as not speaking English.)

My no-longer-quick search doesn’t find any documents for Mary III’s death in 1903. It does turn up a death certificate for Mary I, though, on April 14, 1908, age 59. Cause of death: carcinoma of the stomach. Under “duration of cause,” the document says three years and one month.

Update: I went back to the and databases to look again for the death of Mary Dahl III, born in August, 1893. This time I chanced across a death record on Ancestry that I hadn’t been able to find because her whoever wrote out the death certificate (bottom)had misspelled her last name as “Diahl.” She died April 26, 1903, of “brain fever” with a contributing cause of “convulsions.”

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Occupy Oakland, from Near and Far


If you don’t live in the immediate Bay Area, or even if you do, you’ve been hearing about how violent last week’s Occupy Oakland “general strike” was. On NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”–not a news show, I know, but still a place I usually think of as careful with facts, the day was summarized as one where police clashed with protesters who tried to shut down the city’s port. No police tried to stop the port shutdown, there were no clashes there, and the protesters succeeded in shutting down the port.

Here’s the way a local news commentator, who knows better, puts it: “The place for action last week was Oakland, where thousands of righteous demonstrators who believe they’ve been marginalized by those in power clashed with police, littered parks, broke windows and defaced buildings to vent their anger at the callous disregard they’ve experienced.”

Leaving for later why these accounts have gained currency–a combination of destructive, belligerent behavior by a relative handful of the demonstrators combined with the media’s natural tendency to focus on trouble wherever it occurs–I just want to say don’t believe everything you read or see (also leaving for later: the philosophical conundrum of whether you should believe anything you read or see right here).

From talking to both participants and people who covered the events that day, the vast majority of folks who took part in the Occupy Oakland strike were people bent on just one thing: peaceful protest. (Next you’ll want to know what they were protesting, and I think you’d get a thousand, or ten thousand, different versions of what brought people out there).

Anyway, here are some pictures of signs seen that day, long before the late-night miscreants (self-styled anarchists whom a friend calls “joy-riding thugs), seized their moment.