By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group
Phil Goldsmith was watching television in his Berkeley hills home Wednesday night when his brother saw flames coming from the house just down the hill."He came in and said, 'Hey, there's a fire out there,' so we called the fire department and started spraying with two hoses from the deck," Goldsmith said Thursday morning as crews were mopping up the fire that destroyed one home and did extensive damage to another in the 1000 block of Miller Avenue. "The flames were shooting up in the air and I honestly thought our house would be engulfed."
|Burned debris hangs from a Berkeley hills home destroyed in a Dec. 29 fire. (Photo by Doug Oakley)|
|Berkeley firefighter Jon Pique washes some hose after a Berkeley hills fire destroyed one house and extensively damaged another. (Photo by Doug Oakley)|
|The back side of a Miller Avenue home in the Berkeley hills that was destroyed by a Dec. 29 fire. (Photo by Doug Oakley)|
While no residents of the two burned homes were injured, four of the 36 firefighters on the scene were taken to hospitals for injuries sustained battling the blaze, said Deputy Fire Chief Gill Dong. Two suffered from heat exhaustion, one hurt a knee and the other an ankle while fighting the fire in the houses and on the steep, rocky hill behind them that was thick with vegetation.
Six residents from the two homes damaged in the three-alarm fire have sought temporary housing.
Goldsmith said he thought the fire might have started in vegetation between the two homes. The fire department was trying to determine a cause and a damage estimate Thursday morning. The blaze was brought under control at 10:41 p.m., Dong said. It was first reported about 8:30 p.m. and a third alarm was called by 9:12 p.m.
Fifteen nearby homes were evacuated and firefighters were forced to find an alternate
Neighbors said flames stretched up to 60 feet in the air and sparks flew as high as 150 feet while swirling around redwood trees.
Fire investigators remained at the scene throughout the night searching for a cause and checking for hot spots, Dong said.
Toby McLeod also had a hose ready to go during the fire as he watched the flames.
"I swear these guys saved the whole hillside," said McLeod, who lives on Grizzly Peak, just above the homes that burned.
Robert Davis, 81, lives down the street and said he and his wife got their emergency kits and put them in the car.
He didn't leave, but he also didn't sleep much.
"I know there are a lot of big trees on the hill, so I'm just thankful it was a still night with no wind," Davis said.
Units from the Oakland and Alameda fire departments also responded, while units from the Alameda County Fire Department helped cover the rest of the city, Dong said.
He said there have been four house fires in Berkeley since Saturday.
"What happens during this time of year is it gets colder, and people are using their heaters and fireplaces more," which lead to more fires, he said. "So we want to remind people about their proper use and care."