Originally published on September 16, 2016 for The Daily Californian
Early Friday morning, the Berkeley Fire Department responded to a fire at 2631 Durant Ave., an abandoned apartment complex.
The fire was under control by 5:34 a.m. and there were no reported injuries or fatalities, according to BFD Battalion Chief on Duty Brian Harryman. There are an estimated $50,000 worth of damage, which were mostly to the exterior of the building.
According to Harryman, a homeless encampment behind the building was likely the source of the fire. The team found lighters and matches around the encampment and concluded the fire probably started from debris in the encampment catching on fire.
Harryman said the call came in around 5 a.m. via cellphone from a passerby. BFD immediately dispatched a first alarm full assignment, which consists of four engines, one ladder truck, one paramedic rescue and one battalion chief. When they got there, the fire had reached into one apartment on the first floor of the building.
“It was actually really good that someone saw that that early in the morning,” Harryman said. “If it had gone to 15 to 20 more minutes, it might have taken the whole rear of building. We were lucky we got it when we did.”
Prior to the fire department’s arrival, Harryman said, the police department evacuated the homeless encampment of its residents so the dispatch could put out the fire. He added that the apartment complex has no residents, so the department is trying to contact the owners about the repairs for the building.
As of press time, the Berkeley Police Department could not be reached for comment.