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6-Alarm Fire Contained At Berkeley Construction Site; Near Cal Campus; 'It's Apocalyptic Man, Apocalyptic'

BERKELEY (CBS SF) -- Firefighters battled a six-alarm fire Saturday evening at an apartment building under construction near the University of California campus.

The blaze was reported shortly before 6 p.m. and was located in an apartment building under construction and believed to be unoccupied in the 2000 block of University Avenue, two blocks west of the Cal campus.

Originally designated as a two-alarm blaze, Berkeley firefighters eventually upgraded the incident to a six-alarm fire, receiving mutual aid from departments in neighboring Oakland, Piedmont, Emeryville, Albany and El Cerrito. The Alameda County Fire Department also assisted.

"We can handle two-alarms, so that puts all of our 7 engines, 2 truck companies, 2 ambulance companies and command staff to work," said Berkeley Fire Department Assistant Chief Keith May. "But because of the size of it, and the building and the exposures, we had to call in for additional resources."

Residents in neighboring apartment buildings were evacuated as a precaution. Berkeley fire officials said none of the existing buildings ended up being damaged by the fire. There are no reports of injuries.

Many stood on street corners watching firefighters battle the flame. Among them was Max Levine.

"It's apocalyptic man, apocalyptic, that's all I can say," he told KPIX 5. "I've never seen anything like this on University before but when we saw these trucks and all this water aiming up there, this is like nothing I've ever seen in downtown Berkeley."

Liam Levine was just thankful for the firefighters efforts.

"If firefighters are watching this, thank you," he said.

May told Berkeleyside that workers had been at the construction site until 5 p.m. doing concrete and carpentry work.

The scene captured on social media showed crews working as flames shot from windows and the roof of the multi-story building.

Crews were able to contained the fire by 8:45 p.m. Firefighters continued to pour water on the smoldering debris and were to stay on scene overnight putting out hot spots.

Road closures on University Avenue extended to Martin Luther King Jr. Way to the west and Oxford Street to the east.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report

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