Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oakland Firestorm anniversary

firestorm memorial

Thursday will be the 20th anniversary of the Oakland-Berkeley hills firestorm. At the time it happened, I was house- and pet-sitting for some friends in Alameda. Like a lot of people, I learned about it first from TV -- I was watching the 49ers game, and John Madden circled a cloud of smoke with electronic chalk and said something like: "You see this? This is smoke. Apparently there's a big fire in the Oakland hills." I switched to another channel for news coverage, then ran outside to see for myself when I found out how big it already was.

photo by Richard Misrach at OMCA

It was a hot, dry, windy day and the fire spread quickly and burned for days. The firestorm changed Oakland in a lot of ways. Short-term of course, it literally changed the landscape, making the north hills look more like a moonscape. Thousands of people lost their homes and possessions, and dozens lost their lives. But longer term, it changed fire fighting in the Bay Area, building codes and how people think about living in the urban / wild interface.

There are a variety of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary, starting Saturday at 9am at Rockridge BART. See the city website for more info.

There's an exhibit at the Oakland Museum of photographs by Richard Misrach taken in the aftermath of the fire. There's also a special exhibit at the Oakland History Room. Read Annalee Allen's article for more.

Given the huge impact of the fire, there's a lot of press coverage leading up to the anniversary:

MacArthur Metro:
Oakland Remembers the 1991 Firestorm

Oakland Local:
call for photos and stories

Oakland North:
Local firefighters reenact the Hills Fire response
After fire, residents build off-the-wall homes
McClouds, Pulaskis, and brush hooks?

Oakland Tribune:
Events, exhibits commemorate 20th anniversary
Oakland hills fire: 20 years later
Voices from Oakland Hills Fire
She never thought the fire would jump the freeway
Wind, overgrown trees and brush still a hazard in the hills
By the numbers
After the inferno
Just the first wave of pain for survivors

CBS 5:
Families Still Struggling With Loss


Oakland Daily Photo said...

Once again we meet on the road. My fire post is very similar to yours. Strictly accidental yet fortuitous. Great minds...?

Unknown said...

I make no such claims for myself. As a friend and I used to say to each other, "Great minds think alike... and so do ours." :-)

In any event, I'm looking forward to checking out the photo exhibit at the OMCA.