Despite this week’s heat wave, utility company and fire officials said the unusually high temperatures did not play a role in the recent fires and power outages experienced in Berkeley.
Berkeley Fire Department combated two house fires in as many days this week, the first of which was caused by a shorted high-powered electrical line while parts of the city were still waiting as PG&E worked to restore power from Monday night’s outage.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesperson Daniel Berlant said that there is no correlation between the Bay Area’s “Indian Summer” and an increase in fires.
“A structure fire really has nothing to do with the temperature outside,” Berlant said. “House fires are typically started from the inside — candles, electrical outlets, smoking accidents — which is why most of our structural fires actually happen in the winter months.”
The two power outages Berkeley experienced this week began with a larger outage that involved damaged underground lines, cutting off power to 12,000 customers from Monday night to early Tuesday morning, said PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian.
San Francisco experienced a similar power outage Tuesday afternoon, when 1,800 PG&E customers lost power for several hours.
PG&E spokesperson Jana Morris told the San Francisco Chronicle the company would look into whether the heat wave played any role in the outage.
Tuesday’s fire — which was reported at 8:14 a.m. and was contained shortly after 9 a.m. — started when a seagull grounded itself onto a 12,000-volt high-power line close to the burned residence.
“That short caused the line to separate and drop to the ground, which caused the grass in front of the structure to ignite, which then spread into the attic,” Dong said.
The police and the fire department evacuated the entire block of civilians shortly after responding to initial reports of the fire while the PG&E crew worked to secure the line for safety.
Tuesday’s fire caused significant damage to a house located at 1113 Delaware Street, though the habitability of the house is still being investigated. Damage to the property was estimated at $50,000, but no civilians or firefighters were injured in the incident, said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong.
While Tuesday’s fire did not completely destroy the home, Wednesday’s three-alarm fire displaced five residents and caused extensive property damage. Investigators are still working to determine what sparked the fire, which was reported at 12:19 a.m. and was declared under control at 2:30 a.m., Dong said.
On Wednesday, an early-morning three-alarm fire gutted a house located on the 2900 block of Benvenue Avenue, burning for over two hours and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage.
No injuries were reported from either fire, but the power outage did require the fire department to rescue people stuck in elevators in various buildings around the city, Dong said.
Contact D.J. Sellarole at [email protected]
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