Five People, Including One in Wheelchair, Escape Berkeley Fire

Fire destroyed the back end of a duplex in Berkeley early Wednesday morning, forcing five relatives, including one in a wheelchair, out of the home.

The three-alarm blaze erupted about 12:15 a.m. in the home on Benvenue Avenue, near College and Ashby avenues. Neighbors were forced to evacuate.

"Fire was threatening adjacent structures to the rear and the side of the building," said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong. "We also had a rescue in progress where Berkeley police went in to remove a woman who was in a wheelchair."

Police officers were the first on the scene and rescued the woman in wheelchair. The other four were able to escape on their own.

The back of the Julia Morgan-style house was so badly burned that the roof started caving in. Firefighters say they will have to excavate the back of the house to find the source of the fire. They estimate the damage to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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