Fire breaks out at apartment building on Telegraph Avenue

Smoke billows from a burning apartment on the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue.
Taryn Erhardt/Senior Staff
Smoke billows from a burning apartment on the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue.

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Update: As of 2:45 p.m. Saturday, the fire was still technically burning, according to Gil Dong, deputy fire chief for the Berkeley Fire Department. Dong said this is the largest fire — which has now gutted the building and burned for nearly 17 hours — he can remember in the Berkeley area since the East Bay Hills fire in 1991. Dong and city spokesperson Mary-Kay Clunies-Ross both said the building is structurally unsound and could collapse. Clunies-Ross said the intersection at Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street will be closed for at least a week.

“The building is completely structurally unstable. That’s why the road is closed off for a while because we don’t want anyone getting anywhere close to that building,” she said Saturday afternoon.

Flames engulfed a building at the corner of Telegraph and Haste — which is home to Cafe Intermezzo, Raleigh’s Bar and Grill and Thai Noodle II on the ground level — late Friday evening and early Saturday morning during a fire that took firefighters more than six hours to contain. The roof of the building has collapsed and firefighters will stay on the scene all weekend to knock out any hot spots that may occur, according to Dong.

“We can assume right now that there are still some embers that could still be burning or small fires that could reignite over time,” Dong said Saturday afternoon.

There have been no reports of injuries to firefighters or civilians.

The fire broke out at the apartment building at 2441 Haste St. just before 9 p.m. Friday, causing the building to be evacuated and traffic on nearby streets to be blocked for multiple hours. For hours, the scene was one of destruction — ash littered the sky as flames emerged from various parts of the buildings and smoke billowed out of windows and filled the surrounding streets. The fire was contained by 3:19 a.m. Saturday, according to Sabina Imrie, Berkeley Fire Department’s assistant fire chief for special operations.

No one from the city or the fire department has been able to confirm the cause of the fire.

“We don’t know, and we may not know, frankly,” Clunies-Ross said of what started the fire.

The building, which is five stories, has commercial establishments on the bottom level and a 39-unit residential apartment complex on the upper four levels, according to Imrie.

“The supports of the building cannot withstand heat for that long, so we know the building is unstable — it’s been red-tagged by engineers. The floors on the inside have collapsed,” Clunies-Ross said. “And it’s unreinforced masonry, which means that the bricks could fall apart.”

She added that the next step will be to pull the building apart a little bit to put the rest of the fire out.

“The fire is still going, so (putting it out) is going to be a very careful process because it’s still hot inside but we need to start pulling stuff apart. As they do that process it will be harder to do an investigation,” Clunies-Ross said. “Obviously no one can go into the building because it’s so hot and so dangerous, so it’ll be very hard to determine the exact cause of the fire under the circumstances.”

Dong, who called it a “fairly large and significant fire,” said the first partial collapse occurred at 9:15 p.m. Friday. Over the course of the blaze, a total of 61 firefighters, 17 fire engines, 10 chief officers and six paramedic ambulances came to the scene, he said.

Just after 12 a.m. Saturday, smoke was seen engulfing the bottom level of the building after the fire seemed to intensify around 11 p.m. as black smoke began to emerge from the fourth story of the building. A firefighter on the scene said at around 12:40 a.m. Saturday that the whole building will probably be lost because the fire is too big for anyone to put out by entering the building.

Berkeley Fire Department initially learned about the fire at 8:48 p.m., and the first fire engine arrived at the scene at 8:56 p.m., according to Imrie.

Starting just after 9 p.m Friday., bystanders crowded outside the building on the sidewalk and across the street. Many residents of the building, displaced by the fire and looking for some relief from the cold night air, sat inside Caffe Mediterraneum across the street.

A fire consumes the apartment building on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street.

A shelter will soon open for those displaced by the fire, according to American Red Cross volunteer Markus Storzer. He estimated that about 70 people from the building would need somewhere to sleep for the night and that a bus will arrive to take people to the shelter, although where that will be remains unclear.

“I left the house around 11 a.m., I just came home from work and found it on fire,” said Elfego Miranda, a resident of the building. “Everything will be lost.”

View 2441 Haste St in a larger map

Car and pedestrian traffic were both blocked throughout the night. Around 10 p.m., car traffic was blocked off on Haste between Telegraph and Dana Street and traffic was blocked off on Telegraph between Dwight Way and Channing Way. As of 1:10 a.m. Saturday, streets were blocked off for pedestrians with caution tape in the block marked by Dwight Way to the south, Channing to the north, Bowditch Street to the east and Dana to the west. Rivers of water flowed down Dana and Dwight due to efforts to quell the fire.

Oakland, Albany and Alameda County fire departments were all on the scene.

A fire occurred on the roof of the same building in February this year, although that fire was much smaller and was put out within an hour.

Residents can call the American Red Cross at (510) 595-4441 if they need food, shelter or any other questions. In addition, the Red Cross will be at Dwight and Telegraph on Sunday between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The city of Berkeley is also asking that displaced residents call (510) 981-5900 and provide their name, phone number and apartment unit number to help the city evaluate how many people were displaced and coordinate with the Red Cross and the UC if necessary.

Adelyn Baxter, Sarah Burns, Weiru Fang, Claire Perlman and Anjuli Sastry of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

Soumya Karlamangla is the assistant city news editor.

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  • fasshol

    Wow, what an ass for posting that ad. If you really wanted to help you should give any of these people first months free rent. 

  • Guest

    does anyone know what the status if Raleigh’s is?  any idea on how much damage it suffered and when it will be reopening?

    • Guest

      I read that the entire building is structurally unsound and will be demolished…So if it reopens, it will be at a different location.

  • Trouble1699

    What happens to your Raleigh’s tap cards?!?!?

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to be a bitch, but Thai Noodle II is not on the ground level of the building. In addition, Thai Noodle II isn’t even directly adjacent to the building. Thai Noodle Kitchen is between Thai Noodle II and Raleigh’s. There is nothing on top of the two Thai restaurants.

  • God

    I work in mysterious ways.

  • Smileserveshine

    does anyone happen to know if the red cross is open tomorrow to offer relief for those displaced?

  • Rachel

    My thoughts are with all 70 of the displaced residents. Luckily material goods are replaceable… 

    • Resident

      year books signed by friends, rolling papers, tickets to places, letters from family and friends, pictures, past term papers and essays saved in computer, etc. are priceless and not replaceable.. 

      • Guest

        Except for yearbooks, 99% of everything else you listed should be stored electronically and backed up to gmail/dropbox/etc

        • VM3

          A lot of that stuff doesn’t seem electronic… and even if it is not everyone uses backup services especially for big things like lots and lots of photos since it can get costly fast…. I highly doubt you scan all of your papers and tickets and things that AREN’T electronic… 

    • guest

      at least one person lost their dog.

  • Jnrargn

    Congratulate the DAILY CAL for their extensive coverage and up to the minute live feeds on the event.  I am one who is displaced by this fire and I have been to all these sites looking for coverage.  DAILY CAL does it!  thanks!!!

    • Amarchetti

      I work for Berkeley Apts and we have 4 vacant apartments  move in ready. Please let us know if you need an apartment. We have a two bedroom for $1745. Free app fees and $99 deposit – Call me at 510.849.2000

      • Some person

        wow…opportunistic much?

        • Brian Wantz

          They’re waiving fees and dropping the deposit to an obscenely low $99. Opportunistic? Yes. Helpful? Also yes.

          • God

            I mean…kind of.  Still ridiculous to be posting on here like that.  

      • Juan

        Talk about a douche bag.

      • Tony M

        Capitalism never sleeps.

      • Koali

        $1745 for 2 bdrm is excessive.

  • Shirley

    I hope everything will be okay. Hopefully there will be information soon on how we can help the victims.

  • Tiff

    I’m so shocked and freaked out. Does anyone know what happens? Do we get any kind of thing from City of Berkeley or anything? What happens now?

  • Guest

    I was driving by around midnight and saw it, so I parked and looked on with everybody for a few hours. I feel so bad for the people who live there and the people who work in the businesses below. It really puts things into perspective because it’s one of those things that you think will never happen to you…

    I hope there will be more information on how it started and information on how we can help the victims (donate clothes and other necessities, etc).

  • Cboy

    The fire is raging right now at midnight, flames shooting out the top of the building, its totally fucked.  im 2 blocks away on the roof of my building but i can see the roof completely ablaze..

  • FHResident

    This explains why the firetrucks left the bonfire early. 

  • guest

    Any info on the power outtage?

    • Guest

      Some buildings on Haste St. have their power restored.

  • eunice

    @ Unit 3. I can see it right now and it was a shocking view. Just chilling in my dorm and then I hear there’s a fire that has been going on for a couple hours by now and yeah, it’s a crazy sight. I hope everything will be okay.

  • question

    Anyone have any idea what caused it?

    • Chrisent89

      2 people in the building claimed its the elevator that caught on fire first

      • God

        Whoever smelt it….

  • tristan

    I can see the smoke from the corner of Warring and Derby. jeez. hope everyone is ok.

  • BC!

    We were watch from a balcony near the north side of the building, about 10 minutes ago flames were bursting out of the windows. Looks like they’ve put it down some since then but we can’t tell if it’s spreading or not.

  • TC!

    View from the roof one building away i saw live flames coming from a window on the second floor at around 10:20, 20 minutes later the flames had spread to the windows of the floor above and by 10:40 it had spread to a room right next to that second window. At 10:50 i saw some firemen partially put out the flames in the 3rd story window but as of now they hadnt put out the original fire it seems and the flames were still going strong. Its gonna be awhile…

  • Cycler

    Lots of sirens…. hope everyone is ok.