Investigators seeking cause of Berkeley blaze

December 29, 2011 11:47:00 AM PST
A big overnight fire has left two families out in the cold. The fire lit up the night sky in the Berkeley Hills Wednesday evening around 8:30 p.m.

The fire had quite an impact on the neighborhood. A steady stream of residents came to the burned out homes throughout the day to check out what happened.

One resident even said she went outside to spray water on her trees to prevent the fire from spreading.

Residents stood in disbelief, shocked at the damage by Wednesday's fire but also a bit shaken at the thought of what could have happened.

"There were about 15 or 20 minutes when the fire really seemed to be at its peak," said resident J. P. Ross. "I think all the neighbors were a little concerned."

The concern was over how dry it is on the hills and how close together the homes are.

"It's horrible, it's scary," said resident Catherine Johnson. "I don't see people doing much about it. I don't see people trimming. I'm surprised the whole neighborhood didn't go up 'cause none of these trees are trimmed."

"You just never know with the hills and how dry it's been...climate change taking impact," said Ross. "I think the firefighters did a great job."

Firefighters had some obstacles to overcome Wednesday. Not only were there two three-story homes on fire, homes surrounded by vegetation, but a live power line came down across one of their fire trucks.

"It dropped across our first-end engine company that was pumping the water for our firefighters," said Asst. Chief Gil Dong with the Berkeley Fire Department, "so we had to back away from that engine and provide another water supply to another engine so we could continue the firefight."

The firefighters had to pull out of the homes until they could get the water turned back on.

The fire started at 8:30 p.m. and was put out by 10:40 p.m.

The firefighters said they had a huge advantage with the fact that it wasn't windy Wednesday evening. With the dry conditions, firefighters say they need residents to do some tree trimming.

"Right now, without winds, we're okay as long as we don't have a lot of vegetation growth," Dong said. "But when the wind does come up, we become very concerned."

Firefighters suffered some minor injuries, including heat exhaustion and some sprained ankles. All residents were evacuated safely.

Fire investigators continue to look into the cause of the blaze. They say this is a good time for people to remember that this is a dry time that the Bay Area is going through, serving as a reminder to trim back vegetation.


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