BERKELEY - A fire that destroyed a West Berkeley warehouse complex on Saturday night does not appear to have been intentionally set based on the investigation thus far, a deputy fire chief said today.

"So far as we can tell there doesn't seem to be indication that it was a malicious fire," Berkeley fire Acting Deputy Chief Avery Webb said.

The exact cause of the blaze has not been determined. Webb said the department is getting assistance from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives because of the size and scope of the massive fire and the expensive loss of property.

The five-alarm fire in the 1800 block of Second Street was reported at about 8 p.m. Saturday and took firefighters about five hours to control.

It left the warehouse complex a pile of smoldering rubble, causing major setbacks for at least three Berkeley businesses -- the Wooden Duck, Import Tile and Joshua Tree.

Warehouses for the Wooden Duck and Import Tile were destroyed, but their retail spaces weren't affected. Both were open for business Monday but were scrambling to deal with the loss of stock and to clean up after the fire.

Joshua Tree, however, was entirely housed in the burned building and its future remains unclear. Joshua Tree proprietors have been unavailable for comment.

The building was declared too dangerous to inhabit late Monday because of concerns about the structural integrity of the remaining walls, Webb said.

He said the property owner will need to get an assessment done and stabilize the building before any work can be done there.

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CONTACT: Acting Deputy Chief Avery Webb (510) 981-5501 or (510) 774-0857 cellphone

Wooden Duck (510) 848-3575



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