Remember, Honor & Prepare for a Fire Safe Future

Oakland/Berkeley Hills Firestorm 25 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 25th anniversary of the 1991 Oakland/Berkeley Hills Firestorm with the following events:

October 1 - 29, various hours
Fire Art Project - Revisited
Rockridge Library, 5366 College Avenue
http://oaklandlibrary.org/exhibits/fire-art-project-revisited 

Wednesday, October 5, 7 pm
“Why the Oakland Hills Will Burn Again” Presentation by Jerry Kent, retired Assistant General Manager of East Bay Regional Parks Montclair Presbyterian Church, 5701 Thornhill Drive

October 6 - 20, various hours
Palingenesis: Paintings & Sculptures by David Fitzgerald and Darrell Hunger
Gear Box Gallery, 770 West Grand Avenue
www.gearboxgallery.com

Sunday, October 9, 11 am
Commemorative Event & Plaque Rededication
Rockridge BART Station, College Avenue at Shafter Avenue
Hosted by the City of Oakland, BART and the Rockridge District Association. Stay for the 10th Anniversary “Rockridge Out & About” from noon to 6:00 pm

Sunday, October 16, 9 am  
Field Walk in Claremont Canyon with the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association
www.berkeleypaths.org

Thursday, October 20, 5:30 pm
Remembrance Ceremony 
Gateway Emergency Preparedness Exhibit Center, Tunnel Road at Hiller Drive

Thursday, October 20, 7 pm
Berkeley Path Wanderers Association Annual Meeting including “Fire Prevention Progress Since 1991”
The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley

Saturday, October 22, 9:30 am
Free 3.5-mile walk through the Firestorm Area
Meet at the bottom of Short Cut Path in the southeast corner of the rear parking lot of the Claremont Hotel.
Info: www.berkeleypaths.org

Please check back for further details.

 

Remembrance Event

Thursday, October 20 at 5:30 pm
Gateway Emergency Preparedness Exhibit Center, Tunnel Road at Hiller Drive

PRESENTING THE COLORS:
City of Oakland Fire Department Honor Guard

Emcee: Henry Gardner
Former City Manager, City of Oakland


SPEAKERS:
Congresswoman Barbara Lee
U.S. House of Representatives, CA 13th District

Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington
City of Oakland

Mayor Tom Bates
City of Berkeley

Sue Piper
Chair, Wildfire Prevention Assessment District and Fire Survivor

Barry Pilger
Chair, North Hills Community Association and Fire Survivor

Ken Benson
Secretary, Oakland Firesafe Council

Barbara Goldenberg
Secretary, Diablo Firesafe Council


MEMORIAL RINGING OF THE BELL:
Don Jacobus, Fire Survivor
Mark Hoffmann, Deputy Chief, Oakland Fire Department and Fire Survivor


RETIRING THE COLORS:
City of Oakland Fire Department Honor Guard


Read the event's media release.

 

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

Photo of the Oakland Hills Firestorm

Twenty-five 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, 1,500 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, (www.Uphelp.org/) is a national model. Oakland and Berkeley and surrounding communities formed the Hills Emergency Forum (www.hillsemergencyforum.org/) and strengthened their mutual aid, disaster management and standards for fighting urban wildfires. Oakland established a Wildfire Prevention Assessment District (www.oaklandnet.com/wildfireprevention/) that supports vegetation management and education about living safely in the Oakland hills, which have not faced a major fire in the 25 years since. But the risk of wildfire is ever present, due to the unique topography, weather and vegetation of the Oakland Hills.

Visit the East Bay Regional Park District's website for additional history.  

Download FAQ: Oakland/Berkeley Hills Firestorm by the Numbers

 

Resources

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
yaltes@oaklandnet.com
 
CORE 25 Logo

CORE (Communities of Oakland Respond to Emergencies)
CORE is a free training program for individuals, neighborhood groups and community-based organizations in Oakland. The underlying premise is that a major disaster will overwhelm first responders leaving many citizens on their own for the first 7 to 10 days after the emergency.

CORE teaches self-reliance skills and helps neighborhoods establish response teams to take care of the neighborhood until professional emergency personnel arrive.

(510) 238-6351
core@oaklandnet.com
www.oaklandcore.com

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
877-725-6803
 
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
oes@ci.berkeley.ca.us
http://www.cityofberkeley.info/getready/

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Logo
Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archives
Peter Cavgnaro, Media Relations Manager
pcavagnaro@berkeley.edu
(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

 

Video

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

Personal Memories

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If you have photos or would like to share memories of your experience in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills Firestorm, visit us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/Firestorm20