Recycling bin fire brings traffic to a crawl in Berkeley


The fire was reported at 2:41 p.m. Wednesday near the corner of Hearst Avenue and Second Street, according to a fire dispatcher.

Firefighters found heavy smoke in the area and the fire was impacting a University Avenue overpass and a nearby lumberyard, Acting Fire Chief Gil Dong said.

The fire was declared under control 18 minutes later. It burned about 100 recycling bins in the area and left the overpass scarred by smoke, Dong said.

A homeless man was pulled through a fence by public safety officials to escape the fire and suffered only minor injuries, Dong said. He was not taken to a hospital.

Fire investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fire. Initial reports suggested the fire may have started from an explosion in a methamphetamine lab, Dong said, but investigators have so far found no evidence of that.

California Highway Patrol officials said the fire impacted traffic on nearby Interstate Highway 80 and the University Avenue off-ramp was shut down. It had reopened as of 5 p.m. and was undamaged by the fire.

There were also initially reports of heavy smoke near the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Allston ways, but those reports were from Berkeley High School students who were seeing smoke from the fire near Hearst and Second, Dong said.

The fire is near the area where a five-alarm fire burned a warehouse shared by three Berkeley businesses last month. The fire did not impact those businesses.

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