East Bay News

One killed, two injured in Berkeley house fire

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A deadly fire swept through a home in Berkeley near Ashby and Shattuck avenues on Lorina Street early Thursday morning. Neighbors tried to help rescue a woman, but couldn't reach her.

There were eight people in the house. Two were taken to the hospital in addition to the woman who died in this home, identified as 26-year-old Berkeley resident Meredeth Joyce. It is not known for certain if she was a resident or a visitor.

The frontal view of aftermath on Lorina Street gives hardly a clue about the tragedy that happened inside the century-old house.

"The flames might have been going 50 feet," one witness said.

"And one man was screaming; I could not exactly tell what he was screaming but it turns out he was screaming the deceased woman's name," another witness said.

Neighbor Bob McCarger, among others, went into the burning house to locate and hopefully save her. They got no more than 15 feet.

"The smoke was just too thick; I had to duck down to see anything and to get anywhere and I never made it to the stairs," McCarger said.

The Berkeley Fire Department says the victim had been asleep on the third floor. They believe the fire may have started in the back of the house, but have yet to announce an official cause. The fire department is also looking into why the victims say they never heard smoke alarms, even though the house does have them.

"When a fire occurs it can be very loud, the fire itself and a lot of commotion going on so we're trying to determine if they were functioning 100 percent, and that is what we are trying to do right now," Berkeley Fire Chief John Fitch said.

Not much remained behind the house Thursday. Around noon, two former tenants came by to look. Brad Ramacher and Cassey Sodden describe their former roommates as educated, hard working, in their 20s and 30s and responsible.

"When we lived here, we were careful to cover any open flame just because we knew how old the house was," Ramacher said.

Until this, it has been a survivor from another time with less stringent fire codes. A hollow box which makes it easy for flames to spread from room to room. Berkeley still has many old homes like the one that caught fire so it becomes a cautionary tale for anyone else who owns an old house like this. They go up fast.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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berkeley, fire, east bay news, wayne freedman
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