Police respond to fire southwest of Campanile on Thursday evening

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Christina Kirby/Courtesy

Just after 10:30 p.m. Thursday evening, UCPD and Berkeley Fire Department responded to multiple reports of a fire southwest of the Campanile.

According to UCPD Sgt. Sabrina Reich, the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but there were people near the site when the incident began.

UCPD officers told campus fire marshal Tony Yuen at the scene that the fire might have been caused by individuals doing “fire tricks” for amusement. Yuen believed the individuals fled the scene without dispatching any emergency calls.

At least five fire trucks and three other emergency vehicles responded to the scene. UCPD arrived first and was quickly followed by BFD.

Yuen, who arrived after the fire had been contained, said flames may have reached up to 20 feet high. Reich observed flames as high as the third story of the Campanile.

UC Berkeley student Christina Kirby, who was walking back from Moffitt Library, saw the flames spread through shrubbery and climb an adjacent tree.

According to Yuen, the fire first engulfed juniper bushes on the southwest side of the tower. Southward winds then picked up the flames, burning the canopy of a nearby pine tree. At one-third the Campanile’s height and easily the largest of all the vegetation in the area, the pine tree was the most vital of all burning plants to preserve, he said.

Once the flames of the pine tree were adequately contained, Yuen said, the firefighters worked to extinguish the burning juniper bushes, which line the retaining wall of the Campanile Esplanade’s western side. Firefighters gutted out the burning juniper bushes to suffocate the flames.

Caution tape cordoned off the site and surrounding area following the incident. The juniper bush, completely blackened and at least 15 feet long, lay inside the area.

After BFD arrived at the scene, the fire was contained within about 15 minutes, according to Yuen.

Police officers continued to circulate within the campus as of 11:30 p.m. UCPD officer Robert Ibanez said officers were patrolling the campus in search of the perpetrators.

Kimberly Veklerov is the lead crime reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KVeklerov.