Video: Raging fire that burned through Berkeley church considered suspicious


BERKELEY (KRON) — Firefighters and police officers are working to extinguish a fire in Berkeley, Friday afternoon.

The fire is now declared under control.

According to fire crews, around 12:34 p.m. crews responded to the First Congregational Church in the 2300 block of Channing Way. The blaze is reported to be 3-alarms.

When firefighters arrived, the fire was spreading from its apparent point of origin near a brick fireplace chimney into the attic and eventually resulted in the total collapse of the building’s roof, Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken said.

The fire did not touch the inner sanctuary. But the damage to the façade and the top of the building is a sad chapter in the life of a very historic place.

“Fire crews went inside to try and make an aggressive interior attack, and we discovered that the fire was running through the attic,” fire chief Gil Dong said.

Berkeley Police department are assisting with directing traffic, as many roadways are closed due to the structure fire.

According to police, Ellsworth and Dana Streets between Channing Way and Durant Avenue are closed. Durant Avenue between Ellsworth and Dana Streets are closed.

All areas are closed to both pedestrians and vehicles.

In this video provided to KRON4 News by Alex Wilfert, the church is engulfed in flames.

KRON4″s Spencer Blake is out on the scene and said an evacuation center had to be evacuated, but everyone is believed to be OK.

Firefighters said, residents in the area should expect to see and smell heavy smoke.

McCracken said she expects the fire to be fully contained within an hour. The fire is now about 80 percent contained.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

The church is just a couple blocks south of the University of California at Berkeley campus and the heavy black smoke that poured out of the structure fire resulted in the evacuation of at least six buildings that make up a university dorm complex, McCracken said.

Due to heavy smoke in the area and the need to thoroughly ventilate the buildings prior to re-entry, UCPD is requesting all residents of those buildings to report to Maximino Martinez, located at 2520 Channing, for further instructions.

While 94 kids and 14 adults evacuated a daycare inside the building, firefighters and their trucks were attacking from every angle possible.

So far one firefighter was evaluated for injuries but was found to be unhurt. No other injuries have been reported, McCracken said.

The church dates back to the 1870s and houses a progressive congregation that is known for outreach to the homeless.

The church has also been home to plenty of concerts over the years.

The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, which neighbors the church, says the place has survived a fire before.


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