Thousands of Comcast customers in Berkeley, San Pablo and Richmond were impacted by internet outages Tuesday after a couch fire extensively damaged a shared utility pole in San Pablo, according to the internet company.

The fire happened at about 2 a.m. at 19th Street and Broadway Avenue in San Pablo and “completely melted” hairlike Comcast fiber cables running through the utility pole, according to Joan Hammel, the internet company’s spokesperson. Comcast owns Xfinity, whose internet customers were also impacted by the outage.

Hammel said the blaze immediately caused “significant customer impact” to an estimated 5,000 residents.The company was unable to make repairs immediately because PG&E and hazardous materials crews had to respond to the scene to secure the pole and clear the scene for safety, Hammel said.

Services should return to customers beginning at around 5:30 p.m. and continue throughout the evening, she said.

We’ve had reports of a Comcast internet outage impacting some areas in Berkeley. It’s possible that students and teachers may be impacted today. In this case, please encourage your children to do work that does not require internet connectivity until the issue is resolved.

— Berkeley Unified (@BerkeleyUnified) November 17, 2020

Marc Weinstein, the co-founder of Amoeba Music, said the internet outage impacted several Southside businesses and prevented them from serving customers. Others were frustrated that they couldn’t access distance learning courses and work meetings that have become fully remote during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Berkeley City Council also canceled its livestream of its weekly meeting.

Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...