A cigarette butt discarded by a resident in a central Berkeley home appears to have lit some paper recycling materials on fire over the weekend, causing a blaze that spread to the attic and caused $75,000 in damage, authorities said Monday.
The fire took place Sunday at about 2:30 p.m. Berkeley Deputy Interim Fire Chief Avery Webb said the fire, in the 1700 block of Blake Street, was under control in about half an hour.
Webb said the single-alarm fire started on the porch and spread to the roofline and into the attic space. When fire crews arrived, “three citizens with two garden hoses had controlled the fire pretty effectively,” he said.
Webb said no one was in the house when the fire started, and that no one was injured during the response, which included four engines, a ladder truck, an ambulance and a battalion chief.
The Berkeley Police Department also responded to help with traffic control. The block was closed to through-traffic during the incident.
Webb said that, generally, the Fire Department does not recommend that regular citizens get involved with firefighting efforts, unless they have special training or are able to ensure their own safety. That’s especially the case for an interior fire. Garden hoses, he added, are generally not intended to be firefighting equipment.
Webb said, however, that the citizens with hoses on Sunday did not appear to have done anything risky or to have put themselves or others in jeopardy, and that their efforts did help. “With the exterior fire, they were able to do a really good job.”
Webb said initial reports described flames above the roof level of the house, but that the citizens had “knocked it down” pretty significantly when fire crews arrived.
“Firefighting efforts are generally OK,” he said, “as long as the person has some idea of what they’re doing and they observe safety.”
The Berkeley Fire Department offers training in disaster preparedness for those interested to learn more.
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