Berkeley firefighters put out small fire at I-80 homeless camp

The Ashby Avenue offramp was temporarily closed Monday afternoon for a fire.

The Ashby Avenue I-80 offramp was temporarily closed Monday afternoon as crews put out a small grass fire. Photo: Daniel McPartlan

Berkeley firefighters responded to a small grass fire that started at a homeless encampment by the Ashby Avenue exit from eastbound I-80 early Monday afternoon, according to authorities. The offramp was temporarily closed while crews extinguished the fire.

The initial 12:40 p.m. call came in from Ashby Lumber, which caused concern, said Assistant Berkeley Fire Chief Keith May, department spokesman. But when crews arrived they found only a small fire covering 400 square feet of grass. They put it out within 15 minutes, and were able to trace its source to a homeless encampment by the offramp.

There was no one at the camp when BFD arrived, and it looked like someone may accidentally have left on an appliance there before leaving for the day, which appeared to have caused the fire, May said.

“It quickly spread to dry brush around it,” he said.

In addition to BFD’s standard four engines, there were two Alameda County fire engines at the scene, because a call came in through its channels as well.

The California Highway Patrol also received a report of the fire, according to its online dispatch log.

Four Berkeley firefighters are currently in the North Bay, helping with the effort to contain the devastating Tubbs Fire there. Watch the video of what they encountered in Santa Rosa.

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously a reporter for Berkeleyside. Email: Twitter: .