At least three South Berkeley residents have been displaced after a fire early Sunday evening burned through a house on Fairview Street and left a backyard apartment temporarily uninhabitable, according to officials and neighbors’ accounts.
Berkeley firefighters were called to the home, at 1630 Fairview St., between California and King streets, at 5:49 p.m. Sunday. When they arrived, the home was already engulfed in flames, said Berkeley Fire Assistant Chief Keith May. The fire burned hot enough to melt paint on the Victorian next door.
Two residents of the main home had already been evacuated when crews arrived, as had a resident of the backyard unit. No injuries were reported.
The house belonged to a South Berkeley family that had lived there for generations and was “incredibly friendly” and a “staple of the neighborhood,” according to neighbors. On Wednesday, the house stood sooty and gutted, with the family’s charred chairs, clothes and heat-withered hydrangeas on the front lawn and a city placard reading “seriously damaged” and “unsafe to occupy” affixed to the porch.
The Red Cross was called out to provide emergency financial assistance for lodging, food, clothing, medication and other immediate needs.
A neighbor told Berkeleyside that the backyard apartment lost power and gas during the fire.
Charles Woodward, who lives next door, said he noticed smoke billowing out of the front of the house and called 911.
“It was white at first,” said Charles Woodward, whose apartment’s windows face the house. “We knew that’s not normal. It suddenly turned black and, within seconds, huge flames came leaping out of the front of the house. Then they came out of the side of the house, and the windows burst.”
Woodward said he initially climbed onto the roof of his building and tried to hose down the burning house, but police told him to evacuate to his apartment’s driveway.
The Berkeley Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the blaze.