Fire behind old Ace Hardware building in Downtown Berkeley damages area but causes no casualties

Shaantam Chawla/Courtesy

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A fire engulfed a shed behind the old Ace Hardware store and damaged nearby buildings Monday at approximately 10:11 p.m., but  it did not result in any death or injury.

The fire, which occurred on University Avenue, scorched the sides of the Acheson Physicians’ Building and shattered some windows at Bachenheimer Apartments. While the investigation is still ongoing, Deputy Fire Chief Abraham Roman of the Berkeley Fire Department, or BFD, said he believes the fire was an accident.

Roman said a 20-by-200-foot shed was the point of origin for the fire.

“We believe that maybe a homeless person was staying there and the owner of the property knew they were there,” Roman said.

BFD arrived on the scene at 10:15 p.m. and had the fire contained by 10:32 p.m., according to BFD spokesperson Keith May in a previous interview with The Daily Californian.

According to Roman, about $75,000 in property was either lost or damaged. Roman added that BFD estimates damages but is waiting for insurance companies to give more accurate numbers later on.

“The heat causes an expansion and contraction of anything, and glass is susceptible to that,” Roman said. “It got really hot in there and broke the windows.”

As of press time, Mill Creek Residential Trust, the company that owns the old Ace Hardware property, did not respond for comment.

The old Ace Hardware building has been empty since 2016, when the business moved to Milvia Street, according to Ace Hardware employee Anne Carpenter.

“I think it’s an unfortunate outlier,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison, who presides over the district the fire occurred in.

Harrison said the fire, while unlucky, did not represent any laxness in the city’s fire safety laws.

Contact Jackson Guilfoil at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @GuilfoilJackson.