Woman hospitalized, 2 displaced after South Berkeley apartment fire

The fire started around 6 a.m. Tuesday at an apartment building near the intersection of Sacramento Street and Ashby Avenue.

Flames jump from a building in the William Byron Rumford Plaza apartment complex Tuesday morning. Submitted photo

A woman in her 80s is in the hospital in critical condition after a two-alarm fire broke out Tuesday morning at an apartment complex near the intersection of Sacramento Street and Ashby Avenue. 

The woman’s relative, who shared her ground-floor unit but was not home at the time, and her upstairs neighbor, whose apartment was damaged by smoke, have both been displaced, according to Berkeley Fire Department Assistant Chief Keith May. 

The fire was reported at 6:04 a.m. at the William Byron Rumford Sr. Plaza apartment complex along Sacramento Street, May said. 

“Our crews arrived and found a ground unit on fire with flames and heavy black smoke showing,” he said. “We struck up a second alarm because of the time of day — because we anticipated that people were home.”


The bulk of the fire was concentrated in one room of the woman’s apartment, blowing out of the window. Crews found the woman unconscious in an adjacent room and pulled her out of the building. An ambulance took her to Highland Hospital in Oakland. 

The fire was declared under control at 6:17 a.m., though the smell of smoke lingered for hours.   

A ground-floor apartment and the unit above it were made uninhabitable. Credit: Zac Farber

The American Red Cross was called to assist the people who were displaced.

A Nixle alert sent around 7 a.m. advised people to avoid Sacramento Street between Ashby Avenue and Woolsey Street until at least 10 a.m.

Both the woman’s unit and the one above her are now uninhabitable, May said. Multiple rooms of the woman’s unit were damaged by smoke and one by flames. By 9 a.m. firefighters had heaped charred clothes, burned furniture and a blackened vacuum cleaner in piles outside the building. 

Jervice Youngblood, a neighbor of the woman who has been hospitalized, said she was woken up by the sirens Tuesday. 

“Being close to the hospital, you think it was something that has to do with Alta Bates,” she said. “Then you start to smell it. Once I came outside, I saw all the firetrucks blocked off from the corner to her building. All the neighbors were out making sure she made it out.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

This story was updated after publication. Stay tuned for future updates.

Zac Farber is managing editor of Berkeleyside. Email: zac@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: zacfarber.