Berkeley Fire Department responds to fire on University Avenue

Photo of the Berkeley Fire Department responding to a fire at the corner of University and Oxford St.
Alexander Parra/Courtesy
The building on fire was under construction and not occupied, and the Berkeley Fire Department's first unit arrived at 5:45 p.m. Saturday.

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Update 11/23/2020: This article has been updated to include more information from the Berkeley Fire Department.

The Berkeley Fire Department, or BFD, is continuing to respond to a fire on the 2000 block of University Avenue that was reported at 5:39 p.m. Saturday, and as of Monday afternoon, the fire is not out.

The building on fire was under construction and not occupied, and BFD’s first unit arrived at 5:45 p.m. Saturday. According to BFD spokesperson Keith May, there have been no injuries.

Several buildings around the fire have been evacuated due to concerns over the structural stability of the building on fire, which, according to BFD Acting Fire Marshall Steven Riggs, is about 90 feet tall. Riggs added that the evacuated buildings include two hotels, among other businesses.

“The building is actually still burning,” Riggs said. “We’re trying to put it out as expeditiously as we can and mitigate any fall hazards associated with the building.”

These stability concerns are contributing to the prolonged length of the fire, BFD Captain Scott Hall said, as firefighters cannot enter the building and access the fire located “deep inside.”

Hall added that it is difficult to reach the fire from the outside and angle the water correctly, and hitting the fire with water causes it to move in another direction.

Heavy cranes will be brought in Tuesday morning to potentially begin demolishing the building, Hall said.

The street on University Avenue between Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street is closed while the fire is being handled, according to Riggs. The sidewalk on this stretch of University Avenue has been mostly opened, except for a section east of the UC Theatre that remains closed because it is located across from a personnel hoist used for construction on the building on fire.

Riggs said the hoist is attached to the building but is heavy and tall and could fall if it detaches. BFD is working with the building’s contractor on plans to disassemble the hoist.

According to Riggs, there has been “extensive mutual aid” in the fight against this fire, including from Oakland, Albany, Alameda County and Contra Costa County.

Check back for updates.

Maya Akkaraju is a deputy news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maya_akkaraju.