Dwight apartment building fire forces dozens to evacuate

Fire originated in water-heater closet, residents claim alarms did not go off

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As the day was just beginning for most Berkeley residents, dozens of people who became homeless for the night were searching for a place to sleep.

The building at 2227 Dwight Way that caught on fire early Thursday morning was a six-unit apartment building that was home to an estimated 20 to 30 people, according to Ed Silva, a disaster relief volunteer for the Red Cross. An estimated nine people have become homeless as a result of the fire, according to Gil Dong, deputy fire chief for the Berkeley Fire Department.

The fire department’s preliminary investigation found that the fire began accidentally in a water-heater closet in the apartment building, according to a statement released by the city Thursday evening. Structural engineers from the city are still evaluating whether the building needs to be demolished, according to Dong. No one was injured, but he said the fire caused “heavy and significant damage,” burning through the building’s three floors and causing its roof to collapse. There are two structurally unsupported walls on the third floor that need to be evaluated, he said. Dong said the fire caused at least $1 million in damages.

“I lost everything,” said Mychal Kendricks, who lived on the bottom floor of 2227 Dwight.

Kendricks said found out about the fire and woke up when he heard people screaming in his building. He said he did not hear a fire alarm go off.

“Everyone got out okay, and we’re alright, despite the fact that the alarm never went off. But because the fire alarm was broken, we woke up to the smoke filling our room and had to run out, so we don’t have clothes or wallets or anything really. Just our pjs,” reads a Facebook event page made by three people who lived in the apartment complex.

Dong said the fire investigator will determine whether the fire alarms went off in the building.

Because some of the walls at 2227 Dwight are “leaning in a precarious manner,” Dong said the adjacent buildings have been “yellow-tagged,” according to Dong, so people cannot be inside for more than 10 minutes at a time. According to the statement from the city, residents of the neighboring buildings can enter with a police escort to retrieve their belongings.

A total of approximately 50 people, those from the burned building and the four neighboring buildings that were evacuated, have been displaced since Thursday morning.

Sarah Burns, Amruta Trivedi, Jaehak Yu and Oksana Yurovsky contributed to this report.


View Dwight Way apartment building fire in a larger map

Soumya Karlamangla is the city news editor.