Fire in Downtown Berkeley consumes Mandarin Garden restaurant, nearby residents evacuated

Update 11/27/15: This article has been updated to reflect information from owners at neighboring businesses. 

Early Friday morning, a building in Downtown Berkeley caught on fire, leaving none injured and prompting an investigation into its kindling.

About midnight, firefighters initially responded to reports of a fire in the kitchen of Mandarin Garden restaurant, which sits at 2025 Shattuck Ave., near the intersection of University Avenue. By 3 a.m., firefighters left the area after the fire seemed extinguished, according to Berkeley Fire Department Capt. Brian Harryman.

But a few hours later — about 5:15 a.m. — fire crews, composed of about 35 firefighters, were called back to the scene, where flames were reported to be coming out of the roof.

Because of brick in the building’s walls, the fire was isolated to the restaurant. Yet it destroyed the restaurant’s interior, which was once decorated with polished wood paneling but is now charred and dilapidated. The roof has collapsed, its glass windows have shattered and wooden beams litter the ground around the structure.

The surrounding area, as of Sunday afternoon, has been blocked off from public access by a wire fence.

Fire officials safely evacuated nearby residences on Shattuck Avenue, including two apartment buildings south of the site of the fire. Harryman said the dozens of evacuees were able to return to their buildings, which did not sustain any fire damage.

The restaurant, a neighboring restaurant called Venus Cafe that was under renovation and Patelco Credit Union were reported to have sustained water damage as firefighters attempted to extinguish the flames, according to Harryman.

BoBo Drinks, a cafe next to Patelco Credit Union, also experienced flooding in its basement, though there was no long-term damage to the business, according to the cafe’s owner Nora Aung.

Aung said she first received news of the fire Friday morning from members of her staff. Upon seeing the damage herself, she called the extent of the destruction “shocking.”

Aung had to close her cafe on Friday, though she and her employees spent time cleaning any damage caused by the water. Despite the damage, Aung said that she and her employees are not planning to change their fire safety preparation in light of the fire.

“Sometimes it can’t be helped. Everyone has accidents, it happens,” Aung said. “I’m happy they put it out really quick.”

Friday’s morning fire is not the only blaze to have caused damage to Berkeley buildings this past week. Two fires broke out Sunday, Nov. 22, including a fire that burned through the fourth floor of an apartment complex on Dwight Way along Telegraph Avenue.

BFD is now investigating the cause of the fire, including the possibility that the earlier fire rekindled.

Contact Ivana Saric and Bo Kovitz at [email protected].