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.

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  • guest

    Criminal charges should be brought against Everest Properties. It is their responsibility to ensure that their tenants live in a safe environment. The fire alarms not going off is their fault. I live in a Raj Properties owned apartment, which is the sister to Everest. I will be moving out next year because I don’t feel safe in it. The elevator in my building regularly traps people inside, and its doors close without warning. The permit on it expired over a year ago. Raj Properties employees claim they came into our apartment over winter break to make sure the fire alarms worked, but I doubt they actually went through with it. Raj, Everest, Reddy…they’re all the same and they’re all disturbing. The girls who were Lakireddy Bali Reddy’s sex slaves died from carbon monoxide poisoning in one of his apartments.  I have a feeling the same thing can and will happen again in one of the many apartments still owned by him. If not that, then the lack of functioning fire alarms will kill people.

    TL;DR: These people need to be stopped. 

  • Jim Ristrem

    I lived across the street from the burned building.  There have been numerous fires at places I frequent as well as shootings, threats, and in a recent case a swastika.  These events started when I was assigned the task of looking for medical billing discrepancies at Kaiser HMO. 

    I’ve opened up a blog with photos and a narrative explaining what I have witnessed.

    The blog is at:
    criminal-activity-at-kaiser-hmo.blogspot.com

    I entered this post earlier but it disappered.

  • Armsf

    I live in 2221 – not the next building but one more over and our smoke alarms didn’t go off, either. We only heard ONE alarm, despite that fact that there are over 70 apartment units within 30 feet in all directions. I woke up smelling smoke, and when I looked out the window, there were 30 foot blazes 15 feet from my window.
    I woke up at 3:55am and didn’t know that the fire dept hadn’t been called yet. The fire was SO LARGE that we thought it had. My spouse and I had about 35 min to get our possessions together. Reddy’s buildings are all fire hazards. You have to FIGHT them to fix anything, and then they do it completely ghetto and not to code (my husband is a contractor). We actually said that we’d been expecting a fire for many years now. I hope this forces the Reddy’s to get their act together, but I HIGHLY doubt it. They own approx. 1,000 units in Berkeley.

  • Current student

    Lakireddy is a total sleaze.  No surprise at all that the fire alarms didn’t work in one of his buildings.

  • Carlos

    Kendricks spells his first name “Mychal” not “Michael”.

  • Sassypantsmarilyn

    Sadly, I’m not really too surprised that the fire alarm didn’t work.  Check out the bio of the guy who owns this apartment building, Lakireddy Bali Reddy:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakireddy_Bali_Reddy

    More info: http://www.wassusa.com/ and http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2000/01/20/MN23411.DTL

    • Nunya Beeswax

       “Mr Reddy was on vacation in Cambodia and could not be reached for comment…”