Berkeley fire officials are investigating two suspicious fires that broke out within 15 minutes of one another this morning on Cragmont Avenue.

An arsonist may have set the two fires, said Avery Webb, a battalion chief in the Berkeley Fire Department.

“We had a second fire so close in time to the first fire, in such close proximity that it raises the concern that someone set the fires,” said Webb. “It raises the idea that someone traveling along the street may have set the fires.”

The fire department got a call of a vehicle and structure fire in the 500 block of Cragmont Avenue at 12:43 am, said Webb. Firefighters responded and found a 1994 Mercedes station wagon engulfed in flames. It was parked next to the garage and the flames scorched the garage door. The family living in the house had exited, he said.

As a ladder truck was responding to the fire around 1:00 am, firefighters noticed another fire in the 400 block of Cragmont Avenue, said Webb. A pile of cardboard and paper stacked against a house was on fire, and flames were shooting 12 feet into the air. The flames had started to scorch the house near the front door. Ladder trucks don’t carry water, so firefighters used fire extinguishers and a garden hose to douse the flames, he said.

The family inside the house was unaware of the fire.

The first fire caused about $15,000 to $22,000 in damages, and the second fire caused about $2,000 in damages.

The Berkeley Fire Department and Berkeley police are investigating the blazes.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. Good news on this front!  The Berkeley Patch (online news) is now posting the police log weekly.  I have no idea how comprehensive the log is, but it’s a useful start.

  2. BPD used to post their daily blotter .. only slightly redacted, but otherwise a complete account of the day’s incidents.  What ever happened to that?  For at least a year or two it was being published in parallel with the useless “community crime view” map that is still there today.  I wish they would go back to publishing the daily list .. UCPD still publishes theirs.

  3. It’s even worse than Tracey modestly states–it’s been very hard to get any information out of the city of Berkeley on police and fire matters, so getting even this far is quite an achievement for her.  Reporters who have worked in other cities tell me they’ve never seen such a difficult place to get information.  The current Police Information Officer is a great improvement over her predecessors, however.  Maybe the proposed Sunshine Ordinance will help.

  4. We will follow up and report on what conclusions the fire and police department reach and whether they make any arrests. And no, sadly, there is no city website which records these sorts of incidents.

  5. It would be great if you could follow up on this story.  We were wondering about the commotion in the middle of the night.  Do you know if there is a City of Berkeley website which would list this fire/arson so the public would know what is going on?