Remember, Honor & Prepare for a Fire Safe Future

Oakland/Berkeley Hills Firestorm 20 Years Later

Photo of a Poppy in Ash

In recognition of the perseverance and indomitable community spirit that grew out of one of the nation’s worst urban fires in history, we mark the 20th anniversary of the 1991 Oakland/Berkeley Hills Firestorm with the following events:

Thursday, September 11-Tuesday, November 30, 2011
 Remembering and Rebuilding: A Commemoration of the Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm
The Oakland History Room observes the 20th anniversary of the devastating fire that swept through the Oakland and Berkeley Hills, with an exhibit that recalls the disaster, the response, and the community's effort to heal and rebuild in its aftermath. The Oakland History Room is located in the Main Library, on the 2nd floor.
Oakland  Main Library, 125 14th Street, Oakland
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
7 pm20 Years After the Tunnel Fire
A forum on lessons learned sponsored by the Lamorinda Wiildfire Forum
Orinda Library, 24 Orinda Way, Orinda Contact Jonathan Goodwin at (925) 376-4668.
October 12, 2011 - February 5, 2012
 1991: Oakland-Berkeley Fire Aftermath. Photographs by Richard Misrach Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
In October 1991, immediately following the catastrophic firestorm which struck the Oakland and Berkeley Hills, world-renowned San Francisco Bay Area photographer and long-time Berkeley resident Richard Misrach (America. B. 1949) ventured into the fire zone armed with his 8x10-inch view camera. Working alone, he roamed the devastated area, recording both stark vistas and intimate details of destroyed homes. BAM/PFA and the Oakland Museum each present 40 photographs from his collection. 
October 12-February 5, 2012
www.bampfa.berkeley/edu (510) 642-2250
Saturday, October 15, 2011
 Opening of 1991: Oakland-Berkeley Fire Aftermath. Photographs by Richard Misrach
October 15, 2011- February 12, 2012
Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak Street, Oakland (510) 238-2200
5:30-7:30 pmRemembering and Rebuilding: A Commemoration of the Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm
Oakland History Room, Oakland Main Library, 125 14th Street, Oakland, CA 94612   (510) 834-7446
Saturday, October 22, 2011
9:00 amReflection
Rockridge BART station Firestorm Tile Wall, College Avenue Individual expressions of those affected by the Firestorm
10:30 amRemembrance
Gateway Emergency Preparedness Exhibit Center Tunnel Road & Caldecott Lane Formal commemorative ceremony followed by a parade of fire trucks from neighboring cities and agencies who assisted during the 1991 Firestorm. The Parade will leave from the Gateway Exhibit Center and end at the Family Preparedness Fair at Lake Temescal.
12 NoonFamily Preparedness Fair
Lake Temescal, 6500 Broadway (north entrance) Fun and informative event for families and friends Information booths, displays, fire trucks and engines, interactive demonstrations, jumpy houses, face painting and more. Lori & RJ of Cotton Candy express to perform.


For more information: Leave a message at (510) 238-7070 or email


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October 20, 1991—One of the Worst Urban Fire Disasters in America

Photo of the Oakland Hills Firestorm

Twenty years ago, Oakland faced what was then the worst urban fire disaster in the nation’s history. On October 20, 1991, at 11 am Diablo winds gusting at 65 mph fanned a wildfire that started from an incompletely extinguished grass fire in the Berkeley Hills from the day before and swept through 1600 acres in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills, killing 25 people, injuring 150 people and destroying more than 3000 homes at an estimated economic loss of $1.5 billion. At the fire’s peak, it destroyed one home every 11 seconds. The winds raged for 6 hours and finally died down by 5 pm, but full containment of the fire was not achieved until October 22. As many as 400 engine companies, 1500 personnel and 250 agencies worked to put out the fire
Like a phoenix rising from the fire, residents not only rebuilt but also launched a movement to support disaster survivors through the insurance claim and recovery process that now, as United Policyholders, ( is a national model. Oakland and Berkeley and surrounding communities formed the Hills Emergency Forum ( and strengthened their mutual aid, disaster management and standards for fighting urban wildfires. Oakland established a Wildfire Prevention Assessment District ( that supports vegetation management and education about living safely in the Oakland hills, which have not faced a major fire in the 20 years since. But the risk of wildfire is ever present, due to the unique topography, weather and vegetation of the Oakland hills.


Download FAQ: Oakland/Berkeley Hills Firestorm by the Numbers



Wildfire Prevention District Logo
Oakland Wildfire Prevention Assessment District
In 2003, residents of the Oakland hills established the Wildfire Prevention Assessment District (WPAD) to provide annual funding to assist home and property owners in preventing urban wildfires through vegetation management and education.
Yeda Altes, Fire Safety Education Coordinator
(510) 238-7396
Diablo Firesafe Council Logo
Diablo Firesafe Council
Serves as a catalyst for bringing together people, agencies and the means to substantially reduce the impact of wildland fire in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
Cheryl Miller, Executive Director
United Policy Holders Logo
United Policyholders
Launched in response to the Oakland/Berkeley Hills Firestorm, UP has helped change laws in favor of consumers, exposed and corrected wrongdoing and helped bring about successful claim settlements after fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, business interruption losses and disabling injuries and illnesses.  UP is  a trusted source of information for consumers, public officials, courts and the media.
Amy Bach, Executive Director
(415) 393-9990
Hills Emergency Forum Logo
Hills Emergency Forum
Coordinates the collection, assessment and sharing of information on the East Bay Hills fire hazards, and provides a forum for building interagency consensus on the development of fire safety standards and codes, incident response and management protocols, public education programs, multi-jurisdictional training and fuel reduction strategies.
Contact Cheryl Miller (510) 893-9888
Oakland Public Library Firestorm Exhibition
Oakland History Room, Oakland Public Library
For original photos and newspaper clippings.
Dorothy Lazard, Oakland History Room Librarian
(510) 238-3222
Oakland Museum of California Logo
Oakland Museum of California
Kelly Koski
 City of Berkeley Logo

City of Berkeley
Get Ready Berkeley

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Logo
Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archives
Peter Cavgnaro, Media Relations Manager
(510) 642-0365
US Fire Administration Logo
U.S. Fire Administration/Technical Report Series
The East Bay Hills Fire
Oakland-Berkeley, California
USFA-TR-060/October 1991 FEMA

 List of other resources



   Fire in the Hills  
   Oakland Hills Firestorm Evacuation 1991 
  Clips from tv video from 1991
   BP Stock Footage

Personal Memories

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