UC police and Berkeley fire and police officials are investigating a series of at least 10 small fires south of campus that they believe were deliberately set.

The string of arson fires started Friday, July 16 when someone set fire to a number of trash cans along Telegraph Avenue. One can was set on fire in front of a Subway sandwich shop, another on Channing, and a large one on Bancroft and Telegraph.

On Saturday, July 17, at 3:28 am, the Berkeley Fire Department responded to a trash can fire on the 2600 block of Parker near Benvenue. The flames damaged a light pole and car parked nearby.

On Sunday, July 18, fire officials responded to the first of three fires that were set that day. At about 3:21 a.m. a Berkeley police officer put out a fire in a Port-a-Potty in the 2300 block of Bancroft.  That fire melted the toilet and scorched the exterior wall of a building.

At 4:56 a.m., the police department got an anonymous call reporting a trash can on fire in the 2300 block of Prospect.  The trash can had been pushed into a car parked nearby. The car was seriously damaged.

A minivan belonging to the UC Berkeley Office of Student Development was also damaged in a fire that started around 11:42 pm at the loading dock of Unit 2, a complex of six dormitories set around a central courtyard on campus. Fire officials put out a fire in a pile of wooden debris piled between a wall and the minivan. This is the same location where a fire in a trash chute in Ehrman Hall on June 26 sent two students to the hospital and forced 200 students to evacuate their dorm.

On July 19, around 12:04 am, someone set fire to a wooden bench in the Tang Center Courtyard near UC’s Career Counseling Center at 2222 Bancroft Avenue.  UC police put out the flames but the bench was extensively damaged.

Then, at 7:30 on July 19, fire officials responded to another trash can fire at 2713 Dwight Way between Etna Street and Piedmont Avenue, according to the Daily Californian. It was burning in an alley between two apartment buildings.

UPDATE 2 pm: Police are reporting that two more fires were set — one on Monday night and one on Tuesday morning. The first was in a parking lot near Bowditch Street around 11:45 p.m. and the second was in a trash can outside Sam’s market on Telegraph Avenue around 3:50 a.m. The owner of Sam’s Market had two surveillance cameras set up outside his store and they captured film of two males setting the fire. KTVU has a report on the fires that includes this surveillance video.

Police and fire officials have no suspects at this time and are asking for the community’s help.  They can be contacted at:

University of California Police Department
Criminal Investigation Bureau
(510) 642-0472 / 8am–5pm
(510) 642-6760 / All other times


Berkeley Police Department
(510) 981-5900 / 24 hours

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...