Berkeley Fire Department responds to series of fires

Google Maps location of fire
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The recent spate of fires in Berkeley includes a structure fire that destroyed a home on the 1700 block of Eighth Street on Nov. 18, a fire at a building on the 2000 block of University Avenue on Nov. 21, a house fire on the 900 block of Delaware Street on Sunday and a vehicle fire on Addison and Curtis streets Tuesday.

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Updated 12/1/20: This article has been updated to reflect information from an interview with Patcharada Promprasert.

An apartment building in the 2600 block of Etna Street in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood caught fire at 1:50 a.m. Nov. 16, one of several recent fires in the city.

As the weather gets colder in the winter, according to Berkeley Fire Department, or BFD, spokesperson Keith May, many residents forget to turn off the temperature sensor on their heaters and furnaces, which could lead to fires. 

The recent spate of fires includes a structure fire that destroyed a home on the 1700 block of Eighth Street on Nov. 18, a fire at a building on the 2000 block of University Avenue on Nov. 21, a house fire on the 900 block of Delaware Street on Sunday and a vehicle fire on Addison and Curtis streets Tuesday, according to May.

BFD also responded to two rubbish fires on Monday, May added.

Campus sophomore Bryan Jones — the boyfriend of campus junior Patcharada Promprasert, who owns the apartment complex — discovered the fire at 1:50 a.m. According to Jones, he heard fire crackling and saw flames that were 3 feet tall. The fire was put out at 3:15 a.m.

Jones said he tried putting out the flames with water and a fire extinguisher, but neither extinguished the flames, so he ensured Promprasert was able to escape the building before returning to the apartment.

“I couldn’t see anything, there was so much smoke,” Jones said. “We both held our breath and ran outside. Afterwards, I ran back and let other residents know. I was pounding on their doors.”

There were a total of five tenants living in the apartment complex, according to Jones.

About half of the building was destroyed by fire and three-quarters of the surface area were destroyed by water damage from putting out the flames, Jones added. 

“All my stuff was lost and none of us had renters insurance,” Promprasert said. “But I’m glad all of the people who were living there got out.”

Both Promprasert and Jones were taken to an emergency room and put on inhalers and steroids for nearly a week, Jones said.

“Nobody seems to be traumatized by it, but it definitely scares me when I think about it,” Jones said. “I was super scared in the situation and I just remained calm and I just did the thing. My feet moved before I could think.”

Contact Jasmine Lee and Alexandra Feldman at [email protected].