A fire broke out at a Berkeley residence Sunday afternoon, resulting in around $75,000 in damages without injuries.
The fire, which occurred on the 1700 block of Blake Street, started when stray embers from a cigarette landed on recyclable papers on the front porch. Residents Phil Catalfo and Michelle Lerager were not home, but their son Peter Catalfo was. Berkeley Fire Department arrived minutes after receiving a call. By the time of the team’s arrival, however, three neighbors had contained the fire with garden hoses, said Berkeley Fire Department Interim Deputy Chief Avery Webb.
“By the time I got back here, the neighbors were very concerned and people offered us food and a place to stay,” Phil Catalfo said. “The neighbors have just been beyond fabulous.”
The three neighbors who helped put out the fire were Craig Knudsen, Justin Weber-Stover and Jason Williams, who have all lived in the neighborhood for at least several years, according to Phil Catalfo. Although the intervention of concerned neighbors helped control the fire, Webb said the fire department usually advises against firefighting efforts by citizens.
“When we respond to an incident, we have training, safety equipment and knowledge about what goes on around there, and we are usually reluctant to have people trying to extinguish fires themselves,” Webb said. “We are concerned that people would do something to get harmed and sometimes they might do something that would make the problem bigger.”
Although the fire department estimates roughly $75,000 in damages, Catalfo said he and his insurance company are at least a week away from knowing a more accurate estimate.
Phil Catalfo and his wife Michelle Lerager have resided in the neighborhood for 33 years and in their current home for 26 years. Catalfo is a “semiretired” journalist and writer who also plays in two bands as a hobby. Lerager is a nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.