Lots of black smoke billowed over downtown Berkeley due to a fire on Delaware Street. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Update, 4 p.m. The 1800 block of Delaware has reopened following a mid-day structure fire, police said in a Nixle alert.

Original story, 12:23 p.m. A fire that broke out around noon Tuesday in the 1800 block of Delaware St. (at Grant) in downtown Berkeley caused billowing black smoke to be seen across the area.

The Berkeley Fire Department responded to the scene and Berkeley Police closed the 1800 block of Delaware.

Berkeley Police Sgt. Spencer Fomby told Berkeleyside, whose reporter Natalie Orenstein went to the scene, that it was a structure fire. He said he believed it might be in a detached garage, and that BFD might have “got two people out.”

Subsequently it was confirmed it was a back structure and that, although neighbors said they’d heard people inside, by the time BFD got to scene there was nobody at the site, according to BFD Deputy Fire Chief Abe Roman.

At around 12:44 p.m. Roman confirmed that it was single-alarm fire (meaning four engines, a ladder truck and two ambulances were sent out). The initial call came in at 11:57 a.m. and crews arrived on scene at 12:02 p.m., he said. The firefighters initially had trouble accessing the fire because there was so much “content ” in and around the structure, he said.

“It took lots of manpower just to pull the stuff out of there,” Roman said. “That’s why you saw a great deal of smoke continue on for a while. They were having trouble getting to the source of the fire.”

The fire was declared officially under control at 12:43 p.m. and just some smoldering smoke could be seen.

A neighbor, Sasha Futran, said: “I was leaving home when I saw all the smoke and decided I should not leave home. I was afraid because I was leaving two dogs at home.”

YouTube video

Fire fighters address a structure fire on Delaware Street. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Bystanders watch the fire and take photos. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
In this photo, flames can just be detected behind the tree. Photo: Greg Friedman

Other neighbors, who asked to remain anonymous, said the unit is owned by a “hoarder.”

One said they heard some yelling and “looked out of my kitchen window and saw black smoke coming out the back.”

Another had been walking up Martin Luther King Jr. Way to pay their PG&E bill they “saw all this smoke.” Both said they were scared the flames would travel to their homes.

Many people in the surrounding area noticed the smoke and came to see what was happening. Several were at the nearby Ohlone dog park and brought their pets to the scene.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Firefighters at work at the scene of a fire on Delaware Street in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Heidi Sachs

This developing story was updated regularly after publication.

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...