Update, 6:20pm: The City of Berkeley has made a preliminary finding that the fire was accidental in nature and started in a water-heater closet. Damage is estimated to be at least $1 million to the 3-story, 6-unit building. Dwight Way has one lane closed, but is otherwise open to traffic. The fire-damaged building has been red-tagged by the City’s building official, designating it as unsafe to enter. Because of the risk that the fire-damaged building could collapse, several surrounding buildings received yellow tags. The yellow tag designation generally means that the building is unsafe to live in, but residents can enter with a police escort in order to retrieve their belongings. Building access is limited to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Update, 2:58 pm: Two residents of the apartment building that burned today say they did not hear a fire alarm. Writing on a newly established Facebook page, they said: “We woke up to the smoke filling our room and had to run out, so we don’t have clothes or wallets or anything really. Just our PJs.” Fire investigators should be able to determine if an alarm was activated. As yet, the cause of the fire has not been determined.
Update, 12.32 pm: The building at 2227 Dwight has been red-tagged after overnight fire. and engineers are checking unstable walls, according to NBC Bay Area News which reports via Twitter that up to 50 people have been displaced by the fire. Concern over unstable walls means two buildings have been red-tagged, and four yellow tagged. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
Update, 12:23 pm: Displaced residents from the fire can call the Red Cross at 510-595-4441 for assistance.
Original story: The fire that broke out at around 4:00am this morning at 2227 Dwight Way has left an estimated nine people homeless. The apartment building has been severely damaged by the fire which was difficult to control, according to Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong.
Dozens of firefighters were still on the scene at 9:00am this morning, after battling the fire for over four hours, as were the police, city officials and the Red Cross which was on duty to help displaced residents. The two-alarm fire was deemed under control at 8:05 am.
Significant sections of the rear of the building have collapsed as have parts of the roof.
BFD received the first call about the fire at 4:13 am, according to Dong. Once on the scene the firefighters began battling a blaze that quickly spread to the first, second and third floors and then went through the roof. During the fire fight while the crews were in the interior of the buidling the supports of the third floor collapsed which resulted in the crews withdrawing from the building and continuing to work from the exterior.
“Ultimately we had a difficult time suppressing the fire because we were unable to be inside the building and because it ran through the ceilings and floor joists,” said Dong.
The Red Cross is working to help both tenants and evacuated neighbors find shelter.
At around 8:45 am, BFD was waiting for building inspectors and structural engineers to arrive to help determine how to shore up and brace the back side of the building. Troy Vincent of Paul Davis Restoration and Remodeling, who was one the scene, said boarding up the building would be necessarily not least to prevent further collapse onto adjacent buildings.
A team of fire investigators are on scene to try to determine the cause. BFD will be on scene all day checking for hot spots that may flare up.
The multi-unit building at 2227 Dwight, which is between Shattuck and Telegraph two blocks south of the UC Berkeley campus, is owned by Reddy Lakireddy, according to property records.