No injuries from the fire have been reported to firefighters or community members, said Assistant Berkeley Fire Chief Keith May, but one person reportedly had a leg injury that was unrelated to the morning’s events.
The encampment is located west of the Interstate 80 freeway near the University Avenue off-ramp.
May said it was too soon to say what may have caused the homeless encampment fire near the Seabreeze, but that three engines are on scene working to control it. Generally, a fire this size would only require two engines, he said, but there are no hydrants in the area, so the extra engine will help shuttle water to the scene.
The fire was reported at 10:49 a.m. Monday and the first engine arrived at 10:56 a.m., May said.
Police also responded Monday to help with traffic control in the area. No information was immediately available about road closures, but Berkeleyside will share those details if they become available.
The fire sent huge clouds of black smoke billowing into the air at the homeless camp where dozens of people live. The city has been looking for alternative locations for camp residents but, so far, no appropriate spot has been identified.
In October, the city undertook a large cleanup of the camp and removed an estimated 35 tons of garbage from the area. At the time, 50-60 people were living at the Seabreeze homeless camp down from a high of 100.
Update, 12:30 p.m. Berkeleyside contributing photographer Pete Rosos visited the Seabreeze homeless camp after Monday morning’s fire. He spoke with LaTonya West, who lives in the section of the camp that went up in flames. West sustained serious injuries to her leg in a fire at the encampment in January.
West told Rosos she lost nearly everything in Monday’s fire. She is attempting to secure shelter through the Berkeley Food & Housing Project with the help of another local resident who is also experiencing homelessness.
Update, 1:10 p.m. Shawn Connors, a Berkeley CERT member who is also an EMT, told Berkeleyside she got to the scene just after the fire broke out and found dogs barking and people screaming and crying. Connors made sure the fire had been reported, then asked camp residents if there was anything she could do.
Firefighters arrived almost immediately, Connors said, and quickly got the fire under control.
“I hope our community realizes how great our first responders are, both BFD & BPD. These folks are pros,” she said. “We are very lucky to have them.”
The story was updated after publication due to the developing nature of events.