The 900 block of Pierce Street was closed for several hours Monday afternoon after a fire started in a home between Solano Avenue and Johnson Street, authorities said.
Engineer Eric Agee of the said a woman called police just before noon to report smoke coming out of her roof and her smoke detectors going off.
When firefighters arrived, he said it appeared possibly to be a garbage can fire, as very little was showing except for some smoke.
But after about seven minutes, firefighters realized there was an active blaze in several spots in the home: in the attic area, basement and a concealed space in the wall.
Firefighters and police closed Pierce between Johnson and Solano Avenue during the incident.
Firefighters used thermal imagers to locate the fire, and began taking parts of the roof down after finding some heat along the roof line and seeing pressurized smoke shooting out in that area.
Units from Richmond, El Cerrito and Berkeley fire departments helped fight the fire.
They had to cut two large holes in the roof, via ground ladders from outside, to get to the fire and let the heat escape.
Firefighters also had to go in through a number of spots inside, into an attic crawl space, to ensure that the fire was out, Agee said.
The attic space was perhaps 12 inches tall, he said, and separated into "stud bays," so firefighters had to break into each one to ensure the flames hadn't spread.
"It was very labor-intensive with it being in a confined space," he said. "We had to keep tearing more ceiling and finding little hot spots."
Agee credited the resident for having working smoke detectors, and calling immediately even though she didn't see much smoke.
"She called us and got out, and met us out front. It was exactly the right thing to do," he said, encouraging all residents to ensure their smoke detectors are in working condition.
Fire marshal Brian Crudo hadn't ruled on the cause of the fire or provided a damage estimate as of Monday evening.
There were reports that construction workers had been doing some kind of work on the roof, which could have been related to the fire starting.
"We saved the house, but it's definitely got enough damage that I'm sure they won't be staying in tonight," Agee said Monday. "Structurally it's safe. But it's stinky and wet."
He said two adults, and possibly a child, live in the home.
Firefighters were dispatched to the scene around 11:47 a.m. and had the fire under control by 12:42 p.m.
An engine and a quint (pumper unit) from Albany responded to the scene, along with a truck and engine from Richmond, an engine from El Cerrito, and an engine from Berekeley.
Pierce Street was closed until roughly 3:20 p.m. as they cleaned up debris in the area and ensured the fire was completely out.
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