Fire causes roof collapse of more than 100 year-old Berkeley church

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- A church fire in Berkeley grew to four alarms Friday afternoon in a matter of minutes. The burned building is the First Congregational Church, located on the corner of Channing Way and Dana Street near the University of California, Berkeley.

Sky7 was overhead for hours after the fire started around 1 p.m. Firefighters quickly evacuated once they realized the roof was about to collapse.

PHOTOS: 4-alarm fire at Berkeley church sends plumes of smoke into air

The fire decimated the Berkeley landmark that was built in 1923.

"It looked like a fire at the base of the chimney, it started small and then it enveloped the roof," said one witness.

Berkeley fire says the size of the building contributed to the difficulty. It is half a block long with old construction, an attic that ran from one end of the building to another with nothing to stop flames en route.

Firefighters tried to battle this blaze from inside at first, but had to retreat. One of them, by jumping from a window. It still isn't safe inside.

"Inside the building there are part of floors that are sagging ,which is why we are not putting firefighters inside the building," said Berkeley fire Chief Dong.

Smoke forced evacuation of UC Berkeley's Norton Hall across the street. It's since been cleared. As of now, students are still trying to get back in. Firefighters will likely remain on scene all through Friday night, and into Saturday.

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