The fire-scarred Sequoia Apartments at Telegraph and Haste Saturday morning. Photo: Tracey Taylor

A five-alarm fire that broke out at around 8:30 pm Friday at 2441 Haste Street burned through the night and has left the 39-unit Sequoia Apartments building uninhabitable. Residents and neighbors were evacuated and there were no reported casualties, according to Assistant Fire Chief Sabina Imrie.

The retail businesses on the street level of the Telegraph side of the corner building, including Café Intermezzo, Raleigh’s, Thai Noodle II, and the not-yet-opened Gabrielle’s were also impacted by the fire.

The cause of the fire has not been determined and investigations could not be conducted this morning as the building is not deemed safe to enter. Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong told Berkeleyside several floors of the building have collapsed, as have sections of the roof.

At 9:30 am Saturday firefighters were still using a hose to douse hot-spots, and smoke could be seen billowing from second- and third-floor windows. The fire was determined to be under control at 3:19 am Saturday morning, according to Imrie.

More than 20 fire engines responded to the fire, including some from Oakland, Alameda and Albany. The Red Cross was on the scene late Friday night to help residents find alternative accommodation.

Milad Yazdanpanah and Hooman Shahrokhi lived in Apartment 45 of the three-story five-story building. Yazdanpanah has lived in the building for 12 years. He came home from a day out Friday night at around 9:00 pm to find the Haste-Telegraph intersection blocked and several fire trucks on the scene. After a night spent watching the fire spread through the building he went to his parents’ house to get some sleep. Standing outside the cordoned-off area surrounding the still-smoldering building Saturday morning he said he had lots of questions.

Firefighters dousing hot spots on Saturday morning

“What are the next steps? Who do we contact?” he said. Yazdanpanah said so far nobody had provided information to the building’s residents about what would happen now they have lost their homes. He tried to speak to the owner of the building, but he refused to talk to him.

The owners are Greg and Kenneth Ent, at least one of whom was at the scene of the fire Saturday morning but making no comment to the press.

Yazdanpanah said the building was scheduled to be inspected on Friday and that the batteries in the fire alarms had recently been changed. From where he was standing Friday night, it looked like the fire started in apartment 25, he said.

This is the second fire to break out in this building this year. A minor fire broke out on February 22 after a wooden door on the roof that led to the stairwell caught fire. The building is opposite the long-vacant blighted lot on the east side of Telegraph Avenue which the city recently decided to take action on.

A meeting of emergency responders is scheduled for 11:00 am Saturday to manage the aftermath of the fire. “We have a working team who will coordinate how to resolve issues such as housing and relocation,” said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong.

Traffic and pedestrians are being diverted from the Haste-Telegraph intersection, and police are advising people to avoid the area.

We will provide updates on this story as we get them.

Update, 11:48 am: Dan Brekke shot the following video of the fire blazing on Friday night:

Update, 12:23 pm: At least one building on Haste Street was without electricity Friday night as a result of the fire.

Fire at Haste and Telegraph, no-one injured [02.22.11]
City hands ultimatum to Sarachan on vacant Telegraph lot [09.07.11]

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...