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Demolition Begins On Fire Damaged Berkeley Building

BERKELEY (CBS SF) - Demolition work began Monday on the top two floors of a four-story apartment building near the University of California at Berkeley that was badly damaged in a five-alarm fire earlier this month.

Roland Peterson, president of the Telegraph Property and Business Management Corp., said cranes were in place to begin work at the 39-unit Sequoia Apartments building at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street.

City of Berkeley spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross confirmed that the city issued a demolition permit to the building's owners late Wednesday. The owners couldn't immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Peterson said the demolition work is expected to be completed by next Monday.

Clunies-Ross said that after the top two floors are demolished, the bottom two floors will be braced while a decision is made on what to do with them.

The fire was reported at 8:48 p.m. on Nov. 18 and wasn't contained until after 3 a.m. the next day. It wasn't completely extinguished until Nov. 21.

No one was injured in the blaze, which Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said caused more than $2 million in structural damage and the loss of more than $500,000 in contents. All 68 of the building's residents have been accounted for, Clunies-Ross said.

In addition to the apartment units, the building, which was red-tagged by city officials, housed Cafe Intermezzo and Raleigh's Bar and Grill, which remain closed.

The restaurant Thai Noodle II, which is located next door, is also closed because of concerns that customers and pedestrians could be injured by falling bricks.

Peterson said his understanding is that pedestrians will be able to return to that block once the building is deemed safe again.

He said, "The quicker the demolition work is done, the better."

Peterson said the decision to demolish the top two floors of the building "is a very good move and a very necessary move."

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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