Update, Sept. 13 Twenty-five adults and two young children were displaced by the fire on Berkeley Way on Monday, according to Berkeley Fire. The Red Cross provided vouchers to those without a place to stay. No cause for the blaze has yet been determined.
Original story, Sept. 12 Firefighters rescued six people trapped from the top two floors of a burning apartment building on Berkeley Way late Monday afternoon. Three people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation with “mild to moderate” injuries, according to Berkeley Fire. After the fire was brought under control, firefighters tossed debris from the building as residents sat on the sidewalk awaiting word of whether they’d be allowed to return home.
Police responded first to the residential apartment building on the 1300 block of Berkeley Way, near Acton Street, at 4:45 p.m. Police entered the building and were able to get some people out of the bottom two floors of the three-story building. Berkeley Fire arrived at 4:48 p.m., calling in a second alarm and rescuing people from the second and third floors, according to the department. The blaze was put out by 5:17 p.m.
“Certainly scary moments,” Berkeley police spokesperson Byron White said. “There were people at the windows trying to get some breathable air because there was that heavy black smoke coming from the bottom floors.”
Brit Hadden was in his unit on the third floor lying in bed listening to the radio when he saw smoke billowing out of the back of the building. He called 911 and went straight down the stairs. “I couldn’t breathe up there,” he said.
Before he left, he saw his neighbor grabbing possessions from his apartment. “His apartment might have gotten burned,” he said. “Mine’s in the middle; I’m not sure.”
When Sharon Haynes saw the sirens from her first-floor apartment, she grabbed her purse and pills and headed outside. Her son Alan Haynes, who has congestive heart failure, met her on the street on his way back from dialysis. As they sat in chairs on the Berkeley Way sidewalk early Monday evening, Alan Haynes said they’d need to stay in a hotel if they couldn’t return to their apartment.
Berkeley police sent out a Nixle alert announcing road closures in the area at 5:10 p.m.
Authorities are still working to determine the cause of the blaze and extent of the damage. Berkeley Fire spokesperson Keith May said around 9 p.m. that he believed some people had been allowed to return to their apartments but couldn’t say how many people had been displaced. The Red Cross was at the scene assisting people in finding shelter.
This article was updated after publication as new information became available.