Berkeley firefighters responded to a fire Thursday morning at 2919 Lorina Avenue, where one woman was found dead and two others injured.
At about 2:36 a.m., the Berkeley Fire Department received a call that an old Victorian house had caught fire near the intersection of Shattuck and Ashby avenues.
The identity of the woman was confirmed by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Bureau as Meredith Ann Joyce, 26, a resident of the building.
“Firefighters were told someone was still in the building, and made an immediate entry to find the person,” said Berkeley Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong.
When firefighters were told that someone was still inside, they headed for a room on the third floor that resembled an attic, where they found an unconscious woman, according to Dong.
“While trying to evacuate the person, firefighters encountered heavy heat in the landing (of the stairway) and had to suppress flames to gain entry,” Dong said. “They retrieved the person from the building, but unfortunately she was pronounced deceased on the scene.”
Two others emerged from the scene with injuries, one subject to burns and the other smoke inhalation. The victims were among eight people staying in the house at the time, five of whom were residents, while three were visitors.
“The fire got large enough even to burn the wall siding on an adjacent building,” Dong said.
Many in the area were awoken by the noise of the fire and the action surrounding it, including Mark Coplan, a resident in the neighborhood and the spokesperson of the Berkeley Unified School District, who said he believed it took firefighters about 15 to 17 minutes to put out the fire from the time it began.
“The back of the building was engulfed in flames to the extent that it looked like the whole thing was on fire, but once they put it out, it appeared that the front was actually untouched,” Coplan said. “Smoke was billowing out of the front so it still seemed as though there was still lots of internal damage.”
The fire department reported approximately $600,000 in damage, half of which stems from the destruction of possessions inside the household, according to Dong. As of Thursday afternoon, the cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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