Fire badly damages North Berkeley cottage

A smoke alarm likely saved a woman when a fast-moving fire tore through her Berkeley cottage Monday evening, fire officials said.

Fire crews responded about 6 p.m. to calls of a woman screaming and a building on fire at 1708 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, said Gil Dong, interim Berkeley fire chief.

"When you get calls like that we're thinking rescue," Dong said. "The first arriving engine found a cottage behind an apartment building engulfed in flames. We were able to knock down the fire and prevent it from spreading to the adjacent buildings."

The woman was alerted to the fire by her smoke alarm, Dong said, because she was not in the same room where the fire started. The department is investigating the cause.

Dong said because the fire looked like it might spread to the adjacent buildings, firefighters called in reinforcements.

No injuries were reported and Dong said the fire caused about $50,000 in damage to the 700-square-foot cottage. The woman who lives there lost about $20,000 worth of property, Dong said.

Monday evening was busy with multiple medical calls, so Dong said the Alameda County and Albany fire departments were on standby to help with other incidents in Berkeley.

Reading by Ying Lee at downtown library

Activist Ying Lee will read from her new book "Ying Lee, from Shanghai to Berkeley" at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 3 in the third floor Community Meeting Room of the Berkeley Central Branch Library, 2090 Kittredge St.

The free program is sponsored by the Friends of the Library (www.berkeleylibraryfriends.org). Copies of Lee's book will be available for purchase and signing. For details call 510-981-6139.

Free talk on river otter recovery

Animal rescuer and naturalist Megan Isadore, co-founder of the River Otter Ecology Project, will give a free slide presentation on Return of the River Otter at 7 p.m. Feb. 4 in the Edith Stone Room, Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave.

Paws to Read program at North Branch Library

Children in kindergarten through fifth grade can sign up for a 20-minute session to read aloud to a gentle dog when the popular Paws to Read program comes to the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda, at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 5.

Dogs are provided by nonprofit volunteer organization TherapyPets and the program is known for helping children work on oral fluency in a relaxed atmosphere, while building self-esteem and confidence as they read to a nonjudgmental furry friend.

The program will be held weekly through March 12.

For details call 510-981-6195.

Free screening of Sutro Baths documentary

A free showing of the documentary "Sutro's: The Palace at Lands End" will be held at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. The film looks at the entertainment facilities built on the cliffside, including Sutro Railway, Merry Way, the original Cliff House, ice skating rink and Egyptian Mummy Museum.

Waterfront outing will look at King Tides

The Berkeley Path Wanderers and Friends of 5 Creeks are holding a King Tides Walk that starts at 10 a.m. Feb. 9.

The non-strenuous and level walk will take participants along a new extension of the Bay Trail and give them a chance to see the last of the season's "King Tides," when water levels will be at a peak. The outing starts outside the Sea Breeze Deli on the south side of University Avenue just west of Interstate 80. No dogs will be allowed.

Documentary on sustainable farming

A free screening of "American Meat," described as a "pro-farmer" documentary, will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 4 at Sibley Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus.

The screening will be followed by an 8:30 p.m. panel discussion moderated by author Novella Carpenter on sustainable farming practices. Panelists will include ranchers Bill Niman and Nicolette Hahn Niman, UC Berkeley Professor of Rangeland Ecology and Management Lynn Huntsinger, and director and cinematographer Graham Meriwether, the producer of the documentary.

The presentation is sponsored by Chipotle Mexican Grill, a sponsor of the documentary. For details or to RSVP for the screening visit www.americanmeatfilm.com

Donors needed for blood drive at UC

An American Red Cross blood drive will be held from noon to 6 p.m. Feb. 12 in the Toll Room at Alumni House on the UC Berkeley campus. To make an appointment call 800-733-2767, or go to redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code UCB.

-- Doug Oakley and Chris Treadway