The cause of a massive fire in a historic Berkeley church Friday is still under investigation but preliminary estimates put the damage total at roughly $2 million, according to the Berkeley deputy fire chief.
The three-alarm fire destroyed a large section of the First Congregationalist Church at 2345 Channing Way. It appears to have started near a brick chimney, but the damage is so extensive that a cause may never be known, Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken said.
"The amount of destruction, the depth and length of the burn," especially near the fire's potential point of origin, means that clues will be difficult to identify, McCracken said.
The Alameda County Fire Investigation Task Force is conducting the investigation and it's unclear when it will release its findings, although foul play is not suspected.
To fight the fire, Berkeley called in 12 fire engines, three fire trucks, seven ambulances and dozens of police and other emergency personnel from the city and Alameda County, McCracken said.
"We had our entire department on that scene and we still had to provide emergency resources to our city," McCracken said. "There were lots and lots and lots of other emergency calls during that fire."
To take the pressure off Berkeley responders, crews from the city of Alameda, Alameda County, Paramedics Plus, Oakland and the El Cerrito-Kensington and Moraga-Orinda fire departments fielded emergency calls during the course of the blaze, McCracken said.
The fire ultimately destroyed an entire multi-story brick office building attached to the church, and part of the church's main sanctuary.
"The fire in the sanctuary attic was caught quickly," McCracken said. "The sanctuary below got some water damage and fall-down from a little bit of debris but it's in better shape than one would expect."